One of the most prevalent needs of a successful leader is to influence others positively. We strive to get others to do what we want. We want others to think as we do about a project or initiative. Most of the conversations that leaders engage in are with the goal of influencing others. According to Terry Bacon, in The Elements of Influencing, The Art Of Getting Others To Follow Your Lead, we should avoid negative influencing tactics.Influencing Tactics to Avoid We agree.

Using these tactics may get the job done but stand to damage your credibility and long-term effectiveness as a leader. Here are three of the negative influencing tactics Bacon states to avoid:

Negative Influencing Tactic: Intimidating others to get them to do their job or to think a certain way is not a good approach. To intimidate means to use your position of power (as a boss, size, power over promotions, etc.) as leverage to get someone to do something or adopt a certain view. It simply is not effective – and it is wrong. It may work in a military environment or in a prison, but not in normal situations in business or life. Think about times in the past that someone has tried to intimidate you. Did it work? How did you like it if the person violated your space or used their size to intimidate you. Perhaps in the short term you did what the person wanted, but what did you do after that? What was your opinion of this person?

Negative Influencing Tactic: Threatening is similar to intimidation but focuses on the potential punishment if the person does not do what you want. Often, the threats are made in anger and the negative consequences are made very clear (“If you don’t do this you will be fired.”). In some environments it may even get physical as when a father threatens his children with a spanking or beating if they do not do what they are ordered to do.

Negative Influencing Tactic: Manipulation is unethical because it is based on false information. It involves lying, withholding information, or misleading others. Those who are being influenced in this way are being mislead into taking actions based on a hidden agenda by the influencer. Manipulation is also using fears to influence others (“If you don’t do this, we will lose the contract and it will hurt the company financially, and you may lose your job”).

Intimidation, threatening and manipulation are negative and unethical influencing tactics to avoid. Leaders who use them are not operating in integrity and any possible short-term gains are quickly replaced by long-term losses in credibility and respect. There are plenty of positive influencing tactics that leaders can use to get things done or build a following.

Look around you and observe. Do you see leaders using these negative influencing tactics? If so, how can you help them change? Have you used these negative influencing tactics? If so, stay tuned to learn about positive and ethical influencing alternatives in our next blog.

For more information on Bacon’s work in influencing, we recommend his book, The Elements of Influencing, The Art of Getting Others To Follow Your Lead.

Sidney McDonald

Author, executive coach, and leadership expert, Sidney works with university and corporate clients in growing their talent and results within all levels of the organization.

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