Can you imagine a world where everyone was inspired to go to work? Do you inspire your team to greatness as a leader, or are you one of those leaders who are quite comfortable with your staff coming to work every day without any sense of purpose? The No. 1 problem facing many organizations today is leadership.
A Simon Sinek YouTube video titled “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe” tells the story of a group of Marines that came under heavy fire from three sides in an ambush in Afghanistan, when one Capt. William D. Swenson repeatedly ran into the line of fire to bring injured men to safety and saved at least a dozen lives. A GoPro on one of the medics captured Swenson and a comrade carrying a wounded Marine to a helicopter for evacuation. After putting the man down, Swenson gave him a kiss on the forehead and then ran back into the kill zone.
I said to myself, wow, if a man is willing to give his life for me, I will follow him to the ends of the earth. (Swenson received the Medal of Honor.)
While a business environment is obviously not a war zone, even though we sometimes use war as an analogy, the sort of deep-seated love that Swenson showed needs to be present in a workplace, and it is missing in many organization today. People don’t feel safe, and they do not believe their leaders will have their backs when they are in the line of fire.
The greats of leadership have a persuasion style that allows them to sell their ideas and inspire people to follow their vision. One of the most critical skills in the repertoire of any leader is the power to inspire and influence people by their words and actions rather than coercion.
See also: How High-Performing Salespeople Persuade
In a fascinating book, The Art of Woo, Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas, by G. Richard Shell and Mario Moussa, the authors discuss five different leadership personality approaches to persuasion: Driver, Commander, Promoter, Chess Player and Advocate. Some people are comfortable using three or four of these styles, while others prefer to play only one or two.
This book draws from many other brilliant authors and expertly highlights the value of authenticity and self-awareness in your ability to persuade and influence. The book says you need to make two basic choices: Are you other-oriented or self-oriented? (In other words, are you going to tailor your messages for your audience, or are you going to make unmodified announcements rather than spin them for each audience?) And, will you be loud or quiet?
The book then goes through five styles; one of the keys to great leadership is understanding your unique persuasion style. While you are reading, consider your present environment, your employees, values, etc. and ascertain which communication approach is best aligned to your natural persuasive leadership personality.
Driver (Higher Volume and Self-Oriented Perspective)
According to Shell and Moussa, when individuals are high-volume and prefer to announce their perspective without a lot of adjustment for their audience, other people are likely to experience them as demanding. They can be overly one-dimensional and prefer to persuade people by saying things like “Do this my way, the right way or you can hit the highway.”
I remember working as a plumber’s assistant in my younger days, and all the employees called the founder of the company Frank Sinatra — because he liked everything his way.
But if drivers are dedicated to the organization mission, they can be effective persuaders. The book mentions former Intel CEO Andy Groves, who personified a high-volume, self-oriented CEO and was hugely successful.
Grove kept a wooden bat near his chair. One day, just after a meeting had gotten started, several executives slipped into their seats. Grove fell silent at their arrival, then grabbed the bat, slammed it onto the table, and shouted, “I don’t ever, ever want to be in a meeting with this group that doesn’t start and end when it is scheduled!” Intel was subsequently famous for on-time meetings.
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Grove wasn’t a nut; he was very aware about his communication style and the culture he wanted to create at Intel.
Commander (Low Volume and Self-Oriented)
A commander speaks from a position of quiet confidence and authority, using expertise combined with finesse to make a point in an understated way. The book highlighted J.P. Morgan as someone who conducted himself from a position of quiet confidence and credibility.
You don’t have to be an aggressive Driver when you want people to know exactly what you think. Indeed, a quiet, understated demeanor can often be much more efficient. People listen. The Commander keeps his counsel and puts a premium on maintaining as much control over decisions as possible.
In a financial panic in 1895, Morgan played the Commander with finesse, saving both America and his financial empire from a fiscal catastrophe.
The Promoter (Higher Volume and Other-Oriented Perspective)
Promoters are outgoing, optimistic and assertive. They are friendly. When played well, this role features a gift for gaining and maintaining a wide circle of relationships. The CEO of SAP, Bill McDermott, immediately comes to mind.
During his 17 years at Xerox, where he became the youngest divisional president, he was assigned to turn around the Puerto Rican unit, which was ranked 64th out of 64 divisions in the world. The following year, that same division was No. 1 in the world.
When asked about the spectacular turnaround, Bill McDermott said that he listened to the people, because they know why things aren’t working. McDermott said people told him two things:
- They wanted a vision, so they could be inspired when they came to work.
- The staff wanted their holiday party back.
When the division went from 64th to 1st in the world, they got their holiday party back, at the Old San Juan Hotel.
The Chess Player (Lower Volume and Other-Oriented Perspective)
The Chess Player style involved plotting a set of moves that brings about the desired outcome. Leaders with this type of personality prefer to operate in more intimate settings, quietly managing strategic encounters behind the scenes. A Chess Player is an effective strategist who is less extroverted than the Promoter but shares with the Promoter a keen interest in what makes other people tick.
Shell and Moussa point to John D. Rockefeller. In 1865, Rockefeller wanted to end a partnership with four men, but the firm could be dissolved only if all the partners consented.
Rockefeller went to work behind the scenes, lining up support from some banks. When he got the support required, Rockefeller provoked a quarrel over an oil industry investment and quietly extracted himself from the unsavory business partnership. If Rockefeller was more prone to a driver personality, he may have engaged his partners in a shouting match or threatened litigation, demanding they release him so he could follow his dreams. However, Rockefeller took the path of the Chess Player by carefully plotting a set of moves behind the scenes.
The Advocate – Moderate Volume and a Balance Between Self-Oriented and Other-Oriented Perspectives.
The Advocate uses a full range of tools to get her points across. The Advocate strives for balance — persistence without shouting, being mindful of the audience without losing perspective. A classic example used in the book is the founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton.
Walton visited one of his stores and noticed someone at the front greeting customers. Walton was fascinated with the idea and told his team that all the stores should have greeters. Now, Walton could have simply ordered people to do what he wanted. But he was seldom the Driver that Andy Grove was and instead relied on a more moderate combination of vision, persistence, relationships and reason to get people to see things his way.
There was a lot of conflict over this new initiative, and Walton went to lengths to explain why this greeters program would be good for the company. He let the debate go on in an attempt to fully explore all the ideas. After 18 months of discussion and experiment, Wal-Mart finally adopted the practice company-wide.
Walton did not dictate or say things to his executives such as “Don’t you trust my judgment?” or “Don’t you think I know a thing or two about what is good for Wal-Mart?” Instead, Walton sold his vision, and his team eventually brought into the concept.
As a leader, you need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses in persuasion. You need to understand your preferred communication channels, and likewise, you must take into consideration the dynamics of your environment, your organizational values, culture, people, etc.
Some companies are fierce guardians of their business values, and if there is a misalignment it can cause havoc within the company. For example, you cannot be an Andy Grove in a culture that promotes family values, teamwork, collaboration, etc. The culture is completely different.
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Woo-based persuasion is all about aligning interest, values and relationship as people find it easier to say yes rather than no. Regardless of your personality, when your team trusts you, when you figure out which channels of communication your counterparts are best attuned to, your will gain tremendous credibility within your company.
My personal persuasion style is more of a Chess Player. I prefer to quietly managing strategic encounters behind the scene. What is your personal persuasion style?