When Leaders Can’t Persuade

What we’re witnessing in the U.S. Congress right now is in large part an inability to persuade. Persuasion is a skill.  It’s done with people, not to them.  Two other forms of influence, manipulation and coercion, are done to people — usually by those who have never learned how to be persuasive.  The problem with forms of influence that deceive or force is that when the people at the receiving end grasp what is going on they often retaliate in kind.  Relationships suffer and so do those affected by them.

We are witnessing and paying a huge price for having elected many people to lead the U.S. who haven’t a clue how to manage disagreement.  Their motto:  “It’s my way or the highway.”  Moan as we might about the lack of bi-partisanship, at the base of the problem is the absence of persuasion as the primary tool for bridging differences and finding workable solutions.

Anyone who wishes to be an effective leader needs to learn how to be persuasive.  The best leaders acquire this skill.  They don’t simply throw their weight around.  They don’t lie and maneuver people to achieve their goals.  They recognize the high price of such tactics. Instead, they endeavor to respect the views of others who are candid.  They listen and learn.  Through discussion, they find a path forward.  They know, too, that persuasion rarely involves totally getting your way.  It means finding a way that does not burn down the building in the process.

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