If leadership, at its
most basic, consists of getting things done through others, then persuasion
is one of the leader's essential tools. Many executives have assumed that
this tool is beyond their grasp, available only to the charismatic and
the eloquent. Over the past several decades, though, experimental psychologists
have learned which methods reliably lead people to concede, comply, or
change. Their research shows that persuasion is governed by several principles
that can be taught and applied.
The first principle is
that people are more likely to follow someone who is similar to them than
someone who is not. Wise managers, then, enlist peers to help make their
cases. Second, people are more willing to cooperate with those who are
not only like them but who like them, as well. So it's worth the time to
uncover real similarities and offer genuine praise.
Third, experiments confirm
the intuitive truth that people tend to treat you the way you treat them.
It's sound policy to do a favor before seeking one. Fourth, individuals
are more likely to keep promises they make voluntarily and explicitly.
The message for managers here is to get commitments in writing. Fifth,
studies show that people really do defer to experts. So before they attempt
to exert influence, executives should take pains to establish their own
expertise and not assume that it's self-evident. Finally, people want more
of a commodity when it's scarce; it follows, then, that exclusive information
is more persuasive than widely available data.
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