Leadership Spokane is committed to the truism that leaders always learn. This past week, our adult leaders focused on a core servant leadership characteristic persuasion. Author Larry Spears in his Journal of Virtues And Leadership writes: “Another characteristic of servant leaders is reliance on persuasion, rather than on one’s positional authority, in making decisions within an organization. The servant leader seeks to convince others, rather than coerce compliance. This particular element offers one of the clearest distinctions between the traditional authoritarian model and that of servant leadership. The servant leader is effective at building consensus within groups.” Persuasion is not often talked about, but what a powerful tool for a leader’s toolkit when servant leadership is the goal. Coercion may work short term but it is rarely effective long term when followers will resist or revolt.
Richard Neustadt in his famous book Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents argues that persuasion is the most important tool of the President and their cabinet. The federal bureaucracy is too large to force compliance so persuasion is vital to move the federal government forward. The chief of staff for President Nixon reportedly made the book mandatory reading for the President’s staff. The ancient philosopher Aristotle likewise believed in the power of persuasion and emphasized it in all his teachings writing The Power of Rhetoric as his first book. Famous Life Coach Tony Robbins in his book Unlimited Power writes: “Power today is the ability to communicate and the ability to persuade. If you’re a persuader with no legs, you’ll persuade someone to carry you. If you have no money, you’ll persuade someone to lend you some. Persuasion may be the ultimate skill for creating change…you can have an idea or a product that can change the world, but without the power to persuade, you have nothing.”
Kevin Daum in his August 2013 Inc. article 7 Things Persuasive People Really Do recommends the “how” in persuading. He stresses to leaders to be purposeful, listen, create a connection, acknowledge credibility, offer satisfaction, back off when needed and know when to be quiet. Daum reminds us to pick our battles saying we need to argue and advocate less. Our adult communications class last week was a reminder that persuasion can be a best friend if used correctly. Our social media lesson and our discussion of employment rules is meant to highlight for leaders to think persuasion in all aspects of their leadership journey.
Even Mother Nature understands the power of persuasion. An ancient Aesop fable relates:
The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveler coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveler to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveler. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveler wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveler, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.”
Persuasion is often more effectual than force. ~ Aesop