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How to Help Your Leaders Become Better Influencers

Influencing is a powerful tool, especially when your leaders are working across organizational boundaries or need to gain support when working on multi-functional teams. Here are some tips and tricks for helping them to become better influencers.


Most leaders have a primary influencing style. However, depending on the situation, some influencing behaviors are more effective than others. The most effective leaders understand when their primary style is a strength or a weakness and are able to adjust their style to fit the situation and the audience. Here are the most common influencing approaches ranked from 1, 3 or 5 (with 5 being the most effective).

  • Reasoning


    What: Using logic and facts to show a request is necessary and beneficial

    Use When: A leader has identified common ground and established credibility

  • Consulting

    5 stars

    What: Asking another person to suggest improvements or help plan a proposal

    Use When: A leader may lack relevant knowledge or expertise and/or wants to increase another person’s ownership of the idea or proposal

  • Collaborating

    5 stars

    What: Offering to provide resources or help someone carry out a request

    Use When: A leader wants to reduce the difficulty of carrying out the request

  • Inspiring

    5 stars

    What:Appealing to others’ values, beliefs or emotions

    Use When: A leader knows which values are important to others and wants to generate excitement and enthusiasm for the idea or proposal

  • Appraisal

    3 stars

    What:Clarifying how fulfilling a request will personally benefit someone

    Use When: A leader knows what the other person sees as a personal benefit and can explain how fulfilling the request will help them attain it

  • Personal Appeals

    3 stars

    What:Asking another person to carry out a request out of loyalty or friendship

    Use When: A leader’s request has been authorized and is not perceived as too difficult or costly

  • Exchanging

    3 stars

    What:Offering something the person wants, or offering to reciprocate at a later time, if the person will do what you request

    Use When: A leader wants to make complying with a request more attractive to the other person

  • Recognizing

    3 stars

    What:Using praise or flattery in an attempt to influence someone

    Use When: A leader has a history of recognizing others even without making a request and the competencies being recognized are relevant to the request

  • Coalition

    1 star

    What:Enlisting others who are close to the person a leader is trying to influence

    Use When: A leader lacks credibility or does not have access to key decision makers

  • Pressure

    1 star

    What:Repeatedly asking someone to carry out a request

    Use When: There is a lot at stake and other influence approaches have failed

  • Legitimizing

    1 star

    What:Clarifying that you have the authority to make a request

    Use When: A leader’s authority is questioned and other influence behaviors have failed


In matrix organizations, leaders often need to persuade people to comply with their requests and cooperate when they aren’t direct reports. Here are five proven strategies that provide a solid foundation for effectively influencing matrix partners.


  • Demonstrating credibility: Having a track record of successes and speaking the truth

  • Finding common ground: Identifying shared goals and shared values

  • Clarifying roles and decision authority: Think RACI—For each new project, identifying who is responsible for leading the action, who needs to approve action, who needs to be consulted and who needs to be informed

  • Building relationships based on trust: Being transparent and demonstrating reliability by keeping promises

  • Getting to know team members: Reaching out to have non-work conversations; learning more about what they value and what they need to succeed


In today's global environment, many leaders find they must influence and gain the support of team members from different cultures and countries. Business leaders in 12 countries — China, France, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and the United States — were asked to rank the effectiveness of each of the influencing behaviors.1 This is what was found.


  • Reasoning is most frequently used across all 12 cultures

  • Reasoning, consulting, collaborating and inspiring were universally rated most effective

  • Appraising was rated in the top five by all countries except the Netherlands

  • Pressure tactics such as persistence and legitimizing were perceived as relatively ineffective and ranked in the bottom five for all 12 countries

  • Cultures that place more value on collectivism (such as Japan and China) view collaboration and consulting as more effective than individualistic cultures (such as the U.S. and Germany)


A study of 223 leaders by OnPoint Consulting found some significant differences between influencing tactics used by men and women.


  • Both male and female leaders use reasoning most often

  • Collaborating is the second most preferred tactic by both

  • Women use inspiring more often than men when influencing peers and direct reports

  • Women use consulting more often than men when influencing bosses and direct reports

  • When influencing bosses, men are more likely to use appraising while women are more likely to use recognizing


In order to achieve a desired outcome, the choice of influencing tactics also depend on a leader’s relationship with others in the workplace, situational factors and others’ perceptions.


  • Relationship:“Soft” tactics such as inspiring or collaborating tend to be more effective with peers and direct reports

  • Situational Factors:If the need for action is urgent, a leader may need to use tougher tactics such as legitimizing or pressure

  • Perceptions:When a leader lacks experience or credibility, tactics that involve others such as consulting and collaborating are more effective


Learn more about our influencing programs – now available in full or half-day face-to-face, instructor-led online or e-learning formats.