Leadership is the ability to influence others. You can make a choice to either influence people cohesively or forcefully. The use of forceful influence is manifested in people who use positional leadership to get things done through others. They use their title, position, or badge to get people to comply or follow policy. Forceful influence actually does cause people to follow policy… in your presence and to your face. However, in your absence, people will undermine your authority and resist following policy.
There are ten ways to influence people, and you should never have to resort to two of them. Combinations of these approaches can sometimes be effective as well. Consider how you go about influencing people and see which approach might be the most effective for the situations you face.
#1: Logic: The concept here is utilizing a step-by-step factual reasoning process to convince someone. This is an effective approach for very analytical people who need to see the logic of why they should or shouldn’t move toward your point of view. This approach can backfire if you don’t actually have the facts or evidence to back up your argument.
#2: Vision: This approach entails getting someone to envision what could happen instead of using factual reasoning. This approach appeals more to the emotions of an individual. This approach can backfire if you’re not clear in your vision or passionate in your presentation of a vision.
#3: Inspiration: The concept here is you are showing someone that something is possible by your own role model example or the example of someone else. Inspiration can include your current and past successes that encourage others to reach higher. Your work ethic and passion for the job can also serve as a form of inspiration for others and influence their behavior. This approach can backfire if your actions contradict your words—that does not inspire people.
#4: Participation: This concept involves asking the other person a number of questions, and leading them to a solution. It allows the other person to participate in the influence process. This can backfire if the questions are too leading or too specific, leading the person to feel manipulated.
#5: Uplift: This approach addresses the concept of praising someone if you want to influence their behavior. Providing positive feedback often results in increased positive behavior. This approach can backfire if it is laid on too thick. The other person will feel like you are trying to “butter them up.”
#6: Deal: The idea with this approach is to strike a deal with someone to get a specific desired action. “If you do this, I will do that.” This approach can backfire if you don’t follow through on your end of the deal. The person will lose trust in you and your ability to influence in the future will be compromised.
#7: Favor: With this approach you are simply asking someone to do a favor as a way to influence their actions. If asked humbly, people generally want to help. It can backfire if the person expects a favor in return and you don’t provide one.
#8: Collective: This approach involves the process of letting someone know who else is doing what you are asking them to do. It’s a form of positive peer pressure. It can backfire if you’re dealing with someone who wants to do things their own way and refuses to listen to what other people or organizations might be doing.
#9: Policy: The concept here is using policy to influence behavior. This can backfire if you attempt to shove policy down someone’s throat. People will comply in your presence and undermine you and policy in your absence. Policy should be used in conjunction with mentoring and coaching.
#10: Force: This approach involves the use of positional power to influence behavior. You force people to do what you ask by shoving a badge in their face and threatening discipline if they don’t comply. Force should be saved for extreme situations, emergencies, and life-safety issues. This approach will easily backfire if force is indicative of your overall approach.
Real leaders will spend most of their time using the positive forms of influence above. This will help reduce the need for resorting to policy or force to influence others. Positive influential leadership is what followers are starving for in the fire service. If you can master the cohesive forms of influence, you can gain the support of those around you.
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Kimberly Alyn is a best-selling author and international professional fire service speaker and trainer. She is the owner of Fire Presentations (www.FirePresentations.com), a company dedicated to training workshops for the fire service. Kim offers instruction on leadership, conflict prevention and resolution, discipline in the fire service, promotional process, command presence, communication skills, and presentations skills. Kim is the author of ten books and a variety of CD/DVD productions. Kim can be reached at: 800-821-8116 or email: Kim@FirePresentations.com.