3 Superpowers Used by Persuasive Leaders

I recently visited the historic campus of Cedar Crest College to speak at the kick-off event for their 2015 Women’s Leadership Institute. While I was there, I was fortunate enough to chat with college President, Carmen Twillie Ambar.

Under her leadership, the private liberal arts women’s college is not only developing future leaders among the student population, but also helping women in the corporate workplace develop their own leadership style, lead teams and have more influence in the workplace.

“We just happen to be audacious enough to believe that the world needs more women leaders,” says Twillie Ambar. “It’s not just the right thing to do. When you have more people around the table with different and diverse views, you make better decisions.”

In her role as college president, Twillie Ambar clearly holds a great deal of what’s commonly referred to as “hierarchical power.” And yet, like most leaders, she frequently encounters situations in which she can’t rely on that hierarchical authority alone to lead effectively. Instead, these situations require the skill of influencing without authority, or as Twillie Amber likes to refer to it, “persuasive powers”. She defines such powers as “Helping others see the world the way you see it, and moving people to act and make decisions.”

So, how can you, as an emerging leader, develop persuasive “superpowers”? Here are Twillie Ambar’s top three tips on how supercharge your ability to persuade, lead and influence others, with or without direct authority:

1.) Connecting people to passion

You’ll often see leaders persuade others by sharing relevant data and facts, and understanding where others are coming from. But here’s a powerful tip from Twillie Ambar: the key to moving people to act and make decisions lies in understanding what they care deeply about.

Whether she is speaking with donors, staff members or faculty members, Twillie Ambar observes, “I spend a lot of time trying to connect people to their passion” and inspiring them to make a commitment to act on something they are passionate about.

Want to become a more persuasive leader? Start with taking time to understand what others care deeply about. Make a connection between that passion and your common vision or goal, and encourage them to act decisively on that passion.

2.) Have multiple conversations

A word of caution, though, if you’re seeking instant gratification. Persuasive leaders practice patience and persistence. “People need time to make decisions,” Twillie Ambar shared with me. “They need time to understand where you’re coming from. I’m a big believer in having multiple conversations.” She calls it “taking multiple bites of the apple.” So if at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up. Revisit the conversation and take another bite of that apple!

3.) Handle objections before the meeting

If there’s a big decision to be made in an upcoming meeting, Twillie Ambar will talk to every stakeholder ahead of time, asking questions to uncover where they stand on the issue. Once a meeting is in progress, group dynamics can have a way of taking a meeting down an entirely different track and off the rails. To focus that energy during meetings, Twillie Ambar says, “I try to handle objections before people show up to a meeting.”

“Talk to people in advance” she recommends. “Try to handle their objections beforehand, and help them see the world in a different way. Give them a chance to ask you questions so you can bring up some more data for them.”

The Takeaway

Using your powers of persuasion is not for the faint-hearted. As an up-and-coming leader, you’ll often find yourself in situations where you don’t have a lot of hierarchical authority but still need to rally diverse groups of people around a shared world-view. It takes time, multiple conversations, overcoming objections, and connecting to their passions to ultimately persuade.

As Twillie Ambar concludes, “As a leader, the work you do to with people can be the most difficult work you’ll do, but also the most rewarding.” But if you can help bring a group around to a common view of the world, you’ll discover as Ambar has, “There’s a magical moment when everyone agrees that this is the way forward.”

Jo Miller

Jo Miller is a globally renowned authority on women’s leadership. She’s dedicated two decades to helping women advance into positions of influence by leveraging their leadership strengths. Based on her work with hundreds of thousands of women, she developed a pragmatic and powerful roadmap that guides women to become the leaders they aspire to be. Jo shares this proven process in her book Woman of Influence: 9 Steps to Build Your Brand, Establish Your Legacy, and Thrive (McGraw Hill, 2019.)

Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.com and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

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