The Influencing Leader


How would you describe what a leader does to get things done through others? Is it assertiveness or influencing? A friend of mine asked for some coaching resource material on ‘assertiveness’ and this got me thinking.

I have known John for over 30 years. We are fellow consultants, although we have never done any work together. We work in different areas and in different industries. What we do however is regularly exchange ideas and share resource material with each other.

John’s email arrived with the subject line ‘Blatant Scrounging. He went on to say: “I am working with a client who is switching from sales manager to operations manager. His style is somewhat laid-back and non-confrontational for operations management so I’m taking a coaching approach to help him become more ‘assertiveness’. May I be so bold and ask if you have anything like an ‘idiots guide’ for coaching in this area?”

My reply was: “In my language John ‘assertiveness’ becomes the competency of Leadership Influencing”. I sent John my Personal Learning Module – Leadership Influencing – suggesting he uses the key principles in in the module as a framework for his coaching.

Now a blatant commercial from me. I currently have a number of personal learning modules on selected leadership competencies featured on this website, with more in the pipeline. I will be converting these to personal learning modules soon and will make them available on subscription.

Back to John. My instinct told me: assertiveness bad and influencing good. What do you think?

I did some research. I found some great quotes on the subject from one of my favourite resource sites – businessballs.com. “When most people talk about wanting to be more assertive, what they usually really mean is:

  • How can I become more able to resist the pressure and dominance of excessively dominant people?
  • How can I stand up to bullies (or one bully in particular)?
  • How can I exert a little more control in situations that are important to me?”

I start my Leadership Influencing personal learning module with this definition ….

“Using appropriate methods and interpersonal styles to persuade others to accept a point of view, adopt a plan or take a course of action that will advance business goals; adjusting own behaviour to accommodate values, priorities, goals and needs of people involved; overcoming obstacles and driving for positive outcomes”.

I go on to say ….

“This competency is about making things happen by getting commitment from other people. They could be your direct reports, peers, internal/external business partners or colleagues from across the organisation. You do this without using your position power to unduly influence to force people to go along with your plans. As an experienced leader you will already appreciate that simply telling people what you want to happen does not guarantee a positive response. The old ‘command & control’ approach becomes less relevant – especially as you become a more senior leader. You need to be able to carry people with you. You know coercing compliance does not inspire commitment and can lead to negative and undesired outcomes, such as people sabotaging a project or initiative. You tread a careful path to use influencing strategies that move people in the right direction on the one hand whilst building their commitment to mutual goals on the other. You see things from other people’s perspective. How would this look to them? Why would they want to do this? What are the potential barriers or objections they may perceive?”

So what is your chosen leadership style – assertiveness or influencing? Let me know your own experience on this subject. To comment about this article please use the ‘Leave a Reply’ box below.

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