A leader's dilemma: What's the best way to influence action?

At Fortune, we define leadership as the skill of attaining predetermined objectives with and through the voluntary cooperation and effort of other people. We could dissect this definition all day, but for now we'll focus on the last part: How can a leader achieve voluntary cooperation and effort from their people? Or in other words, how can they influence them to act as they'd like?

To answer this question, leaders must understand the two factors that people consider before taking any action: the present situation and the perception of the future. If people believe that the future will be better than the present, they'll act. If not, they'll do nothing. This is true for any walk of life, in business or personal.

To influence people to act, leaders are usually confronted by two options: They can attack the present or sell a better future.

Attacking people's present position and approach may look like it increases the relative value of the future. It's easy... but it's also fleeting, like treating the symptom to a cold instead of the cause. By attacking what people have done up to that point, you're also attacking their intelligence, their confidence, their professional skills and their abilities. Have no doubt: People will resist this very quickly.

Selling a better future, on the other hand, is an effective way of getting people to act. Sell them (ie, communicate!) the company's vision – make the dream a tangible reality in their mind – and the fulfillment that this can bring to themselves. By doing so, leaders will get that voluntary cooperation and effort and maintain long-lasting productivity.

Posted: 12/04/2011 6:23:20 PM by Andy Klein | with 0 comments
Filed under: action, influence, leaders, leadership
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