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Why Persuasive Leadership will always be relevant

Convincing people, winning them over and getting them to do to anything, is not a mean feat. The Greeks had mastered this art where orators would use their words, emotion, logic, body language to get their audience on board with their ideas. Of course, they were open to feedback too. Of course, there are historical accounts of how the most noted Greek persuader got into many scraps with the authorities and this art was pushed down by political forces of that time who were more favourable to authoritarian leadership.

Nearly 2000 years later, things have and haven’t changed much. The art of persuasion still is a much needed and enviable skill where logic, intuition and emotion can be the most powerful tools. And authoritarian leadership is witnessing its last days on the planet. What’s more, even science agrees. In fact, reliable behavioural research indicates that when a limited set of human drivers and needs are applied, persuasion works wonders. Therefore, in today’s world managers and leaders need to understand that ‘Do as I say because I’m the authority’ attitude has given way to generating goodwill, trust, authentic similarities and transparency. Why? Because these create a win-win situation for everyone.

Deciphering the fine art of persuasion

Consistency & Commitment -?Greek Philosopher Aristotle once famously said “We are what we repeatedly do.” People like other to view them as consistent, committed and reliable. But this ideal scenario may never really manifest for everyone at workplace. Nearly everyone has struggled to get their job done at some point in their work life. The two ways to deal with this are: Either get a public commitment or get it in writing, because in the latter case people tend to honour their word and is often viewed as a measure of who people really are. As an example, it could be a late submission and instead of writing a negative reminder, a positive mail praising the value that employee brought to work and subtly reminding of the deadline will do the trick. Therefore, positive reinforcement is a critical key to manifesting desirable action on ground. It motivates people to do the right thing and in their mind, they become that person and they will want to consistency project that self-image to themselves and others.

Authority - Trust & influence. These values sum authoritative persuasion which means people tend to be influenced by experts who are not only knowledgeable, understand how the system works and use the system to persuade people. The latter in turn, tend to follow ‘authoritative’ influencers. Remember, no one can be an expert on all subjects and matters, therefore these influencers fulfil that inherent need of people to work and grow with those who are domain experts, have the right credentials and experiences.It's important not to brag about experiences and expertise, rather communicate these in a more subtle but impactful fashion to evoke trust and respect.

Social Proof - Everyone is influenced, driven and making choices based on the actions of others around them. the Regents' Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University and Distinguished Professor of Marketing in the W. P. Carey School Robert Cialdini cites an example of social proof. A sign in the hotel room asked patron to recycle their towels for the environment. Similar messages were reflected in other rooms. There was hardly any conversion. He simply changed the messaging and it led to the intended results with guests reusing their towels. The Message? A majority of people who stayed in this room recycled their towels. Therefore, follow the crowd or social proof worked.

Reciprocity - Obligation or giving back is considered one of the most powerful tools of persuasion. When a leader praises or appreciates someone for the job well done, it leads to more turnaround as the employee feels valued, acknowledged and recognised. This also leads to a sense of obligation where the person feels entrusted to carry a certain responsibility and he ensures he does his work well. In other words, whether reciprocity is in the form of words, material or financial or an opportunity—each of these scenarios evoke a subconscious emotion of being recognised and the feeling of wanting to mirror this endeavour.

Liking & Relatability - An international pet relocation service witnessed a spike in its digital visitors. A little research revealed that the company’s ‘About Us’ page which featured the staff resumes was a hit with people. Besides the common thread of being pet lovers, these resumes also included personal details, passions and hobbies. Simply put, they were relatable likeable and human to the prospective and existing clients. Back to workplace, if a leader or manager starts a meeting with a relatable anecdote, identifies with a passion of a co-worker or shares the same interest, it generates liking, ease, comfort and trust. This in turn converts employees into getting the job done with a positive attitude.

The Principle of Scarcity -  ? It’s human nature to value something when it’s scarce, in short supply and it’s assumed that it’s in high demand therefore an invaluable opportunity. In this scenario, there is no freedom of choice which is in direct contravention to human psychology which as humans are wired to react against losing the freedom to choose. Robert B. Cialdini in his textbook, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, states, “Opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited.” It could be applied to a training and upskilling scenario, winning over a difficult co-worker (giving them a heads up on a positive development that is yet to be publicly shared). In both cases the employee will feel valued, seen and heard and this in turn will impact their productivity in a very positive way. Why? Because this ‘one-of-its kind’ offer catalyzes people respond better when they understand what they stand to lose versus what they stand to gain if they don’t avail it. This persuasive power of exclusivity can then be generated by a leader or manager to support his project, idea or initiative in the most genuine and engaging way. It also wins trust. In the end, persuasive leadership is about respectfully empowering others to act positively, make them feel good about themselves, valuing people by attempting to convince them instead of foisting dominance. It not only creates lasting bonds but also positive intentions for the ‘greater good.’

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