There are those who argue that there is no such thing as differing leadership styles. The idea of style, they contend, belongs solely to managers and to ascribe this attribute to leadership is an outdated concept. Leaders today pay attention to one thing and one thing only—the future of the organization. Their sights are directed outward, enabling them to stay attuned to the fast-paced, ever-changing world. They are visionaries who influence others to act on behalf of their vision.
Management, on the other hand, deals with the internal workings of the organization and carries out the goals set down by the leadership. Managers are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations, including the management of people and company systems. Managers make sure that the product is ready for market and how they achieve this is their concern.
Based on this premise, the true leader is the person who exercises influence. In fact, John Maxwell says that
“leadership is about influence—nothing more and nothing less.”
Rather than focusing on multiple styles, therefore, we must consider only one style—the influencing style. To be a true leader is to influence action.
Here are eight ways that a leader influences others. A leader:
- presents a cogent argument as to why a certain direction needs to be pursued
- appeals to the emotions of others, evoking their passion and securing their buy-in
- uses public speaking to motivate the masses, be they religious, political, or corporate in nature, giving reasons as to why the masses should support his position
- uses quiet but persistent influence to turn the attitudinal tide of his audience, slowly inducing it to subscribe to his ideology or idea
- enlists the support of other influential, powerful people to help spread the message and gain affirmative action for the same
- uses carefully crafted questions to help shift the audience’s attitude to his point of view
- leads by example, inducing others to follow his lead, and
- leads by waiting, letting the silence induce his followers to go to where he wants them to be.
To lead, then, is to act in such a way as to influence others to help make a vision become a reality. Martin Luther King Junior was truly an influential, visionary leader. While riding the bus in Montgomery with his entourage, one of the local reporters noted that, when Martin Luther King Jr. spoke with someone, he always seemed to be peering into the future. Looking ahead, seeing a vision and then influencing others to help realize it is the task of the contemporary leader. This is truly what leadership style means.