What is leadership? This simple question has spawned dozens of theories, literally thousands of definitions and hundreds of thousands of books. However, while researchers disagree in many areas, there is one viewpoint on leadership where there is almost unanimous agreement, which is that, at its heart, leadership is about influence. Great leaders are always great persuaders.

So, how might we become more effective at influencing/persuading others?

One of the most influential thinkers on the mechanisms of persuasion is Robert Cialdini, whose classic book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, became a national bestseller and listed on New York Times bestseller list and Fortune Magazine’s 100 best business books of all the time. In it, Cialdini identifies what he called the six universal principles of persuasion: reciprocity, commitment and consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity. However, this is a book that is probably more useful to marketeers than leaders.

Now, 30 years on from Influence, Cialdini has added to his previous body of work by identifying another aspect of persuasion, this time, of direct relevance and immediate value to leaders. In fact, he believes this to be the most critical of all, because it also empowers the other six: how we prepare recipients to receive a message. He calls it pre-suasion. This article explains the key elements involved.

Read the Article: How to Be a Persuasive Leader (hint: it’s about the ‘moment before’)

My Advice

I’ve worked with many leaders to help them to craft important presentations that will create the impact they desire. Without exception, these high-achieving and committed professionals already have a powerful message and carefully developed plan for delivering their content, before they bring anything to me for discussion. The area that always receives much less attention, is how to maximise the impact of what they say; however, research clearly shows that this area may be more critical than the words themselves. We all know that a poor presenter can kill even the best message.

This principle is also true in any other communication or interaction where you have a goal of influencing another person. I love the example in this article of the degree to which an image, when presented alongside identical information, greatly improved the performance of call centre volunteers. Emotion matters. Attention matters. And both can be greatly enhanced by giving some of your own attention to the softer aspects of your communication, particularly those that impact the state of mind of the people you are speaking to. The principles in this article provide a great starting point.