Reasons why Leadership is not about manipulation

by JBerceAfter recently a puppy joint our household once again it proved that from the moment we are born we have been predestined and taught how to manipulate. All small kids (the same goes for puppies) use basically 24 hours per day to watch, observe and consequently ‘calculate’ what is good for them and how to achieve it.

Well, assuming that is so and also knowing that manipulation has a bad reputation, how could we distinguish manipulation from a persuasion (does not have a bad reputation) that we use as well?

In my view a manipulation is, by definition, a form of persuasion and vice versa. Might be that manipulation is more of a short-term strategy, but consequently, manipulation and persuasion are all about getting someone to do something that you want them to do. Isn’t it?
From persuasion point of view I would say that it distinguishes from manipulation in a small detail: influencing someone because of something that is ‘good’ for the person or, better said that the person may be persuaded to perceive such doing as beneficial or good. Therefore, in this relation the trust in the persuader is the fundamental element for the effective persuasion. And trust is mostly missing or abused in manipulation.

My primary working duties include teaching and mentoring on graduate and post graduate levels. Therefore, most of my time is spent inspiring others to achieve their goal – a degree. Hence, I have to motivate, encourage and challenge my students so that they are able to reach their potential on the exams and/or written and oral performances. Whenever possible I try to persuade the students by tackling their inner self rather than manipulate by bad grading.

Does this kind of persuasion work?

On the long run it definitively pays off. Influencing through manipulation is much weaker than the one through persuasion. My past students proved me right on several occasions when we met again. For the persuasion to work out you also need to follow some ‘rules: recognize the abilities, skills and strengths of others; publicly praise them and encourage others to act; encourage positive behavior in others as well; as a teacher I have to ‘persuade’ students to put energy towards theirs’ goal(s). The final goal - a degree does certainly not assure a job, nevertheless it enables it as a degree demonstrates that one is capable of successfully finishing a long term “project”. And here we touch leadership.

Is ‘manipulation’ associated with leadership?

Well, never in a good way. Leaders that use manipulation I would hardly consider leaders. But they do exist now and throughout our history. For me the basic differentiation between leadership and manipulation lies in how a leader motivates other people’s behavior: with brain or with heart – ‘without or within’ is how on Far East would say!

Hence, great leaders demonstrate their great leadership within their organizations as well as in their environment and are usually never seen as manipulators. They guide others with authenticity, transparency and generosity.

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