“Leadership is all about influence, nothing more and nothing less” so said John Maxwell many years ago.  A leader leads when they can influence or persuade others to do something or go somewhere for a greater cause or purpose.  Lacking influencing skills denies a person any opportunity to be a leader – in their family, their small community group, their department, division or corporation.

There are several techniques that can be utilized to be influential.  Among the more obvious are intimidation, manipulation, coercion, engaging, compelling and selling.

Hay-McBer has some original research on 6 styles of leadership.  Since leadership is all about influence, let’s examine each:

  1. Directive – is when a leader firmly instructs people to take a particular action without any other option available. There is only one way and that is the way directed or dictated by this leader.
  2. Authoritative or Visionary – Offering compelling reasons and utilizing active persuasion to align the followers with the long-term direction or vision the leader has already predetermined is best.
  3. Affiliative – is when the leader uses compromise and harmony to gain acceptance of the solution or direction from the majority of the followers.  This style tends to avoid conflict (even the healthy forms of conflict) and emphasizes the value of good working relationships among the team.
  4. Participative or Democratic – is when the leader offers several choices up for a vote and the majority of the votes wins. This is best when the leader truly wants everyone’s input and the particular solution or direction does not matter a great deal.  This will work when all agree on the overall vision.
  5. Pacesetting – is when a leader sets the tone of high performance standards and expects others to follow their lead.  This style is particularly effective when the team is comprised of high performers who need little direction or oversight.
  6. Coaching – a leader has the long-term professional development of employees as their main objective.   They engage in conversations with people to determine the direction or action themselves by asking insightful questions enabling the person to think at a deeper level thereby gaining more clarity on the situation and likely solutions that are possible. This is best used with employees who also value development and growth.

There are situations where each form described above is appropriate to use.  For example, if there is a fire in the building, or other crisis situation, the dictatorial approach is the most effective.  If you want to be viewed as an influential leader who garners respect and admiration from your followers, this approach should be used in very rare instances.

Compelling research has shown that the most effective and successful leaders are comfortable using any and all of the above approaches, depending on the situation at hand.

Action to Take

  1. Discuss these approaches with your staff, peers or other trusted colleagues.  Ask them for feedback on your strengths and usage of each type.
  2. Think through the last 2-3 months and assess which approaches you utilized in given situations – do you have a wide usage or narrow usage pattern?
  3. Work with a leadership coach or other skilled colleague to help you role play or think through approaches you can take with upcoming influencing opportunities.

Question: Which Style of Influence will you make an intentional effort to develop for yourself?  You can leave a comment below.