Leadership Effectiveness Depends on Modulation
One of the enduring qualities of high-performing leaders is their ability to persuade others. While there are a number of ways to do this, there is research evidence to suggest that the most effective approach may run counter to popular wisdom.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Vanessa Bohns cites research from her soon to be released book, “You Have More Influence Than You Think: How We Underestimate Our Power of Persuasion and Why it Matters” which supports the notion that how we communicate our point of view is every bit as important as the subject itself. That “how” is most effective when emotions and volume are dialed back and calm, controlled, “softer appeals for persuasion” take hold.
According to Dr. Bohns, when we lack confidence in our point of view, even a little bit, we try to make up for it by becoming more assertive, louder and with higher levels of emotion, anger, and frustration. Paradoxically, research demonstrates that this approach helps make us less persuasive. This leads to a kind of spiraling effect. Here’s why.
When we feel our point of view is not being fully heard, understood, appreciated, or accepted, the tendency is to then amplify our approach in volume, the nature of the words we choose, and even physical demonstrations. In the moment, we feel this is a needed tactic (or maybe, lacking awareness and interpersonal communications training, it’s the only way we know). Notwithstanding the temporary visceral satisfaction we may feel in making a “stronger” argument, the net effect is most often the opposite of what we have intended. This result brings about even more frustration and the stakes (and the volume) are raised. And so it goes.
Of course, some would argue that the only way to get their point across is to communicate in a loud, heavy-handed way. I have worked with owners and executives who cite their success in employing this type of approach. Two points.
First, this “success” is usually short-lived. Over time, people can become numb to highly assertive forms of communication and even tend to “tune out” the most extreme and frequent occurrences.
Second, and more importantly, while aggressive forms of communicating can result in getting people to do what you would like them to do, enduringly successful leaders don’t confuse compliance with commitment. If the intension is to build strong, lasting relationships with those around us, the gentle art of persuasion is far more likely to bring about the kind of sustainable commitment leaders value.
For more information on ways to improve your organization’s culture through more effective communication, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joseph P. Truncale, Ph.D., CAE, is the Founder and Principal of Alexander Joseph Associates, a privately held consultancy specializing in executive business advisory services with clients throughout the graphic communications industry.
Joe spent 30 years with NAPL, including 11 years as President and CEO. He is an adjunct professor at NYU teaching graduate courses in Executive Leadership; Financial Management and Analysis; Finance for Marketing Decisions; and Leadership: The C Suite Perspective. He may be reached at Joe@ajstrategy.com. Phone or text: (201) 394-8160.