Coach’s Corner – Why Persuasion is Better Than Force (Part 1)
One day, the North Wind and the Sun were hanging out together, admiring the beautiful land that we all call home. They watched a man wearing a cloak walk over the grassy field, when the North Wind suddenly had an idea. “Why don’t we see which one of us is stronger, and get that cloak off the man?” The Wind started by taking a deep breath, then let out the coldest and strongest stream of air directly at the man. The man’s cloak almost flew off his back, but the man shivered and clung to his cloak, wrapping it even tighter around his head and body. Now exhausted, the North Wind yielded to the Sun to take a turn. With eyes closed, the Sun concentrated and started to beam a glow of light that quickly warmed the land below. The man began to feel the heat of the bright Sun, and as sweat rolled down his face, decided to take off his robe.
Many of you will recognize this as one of Aesop’s many fables. The moral of this story is “persuasion is better than force.” It applies to many aspects of our lives – none more noticeable these days than to leadership.
Whether leading a team, an organization or a country, the use of force for achieving goals is an archaic and defunct form of leadership that should no longer exist, and should not be tolerated by those being led, because in the long run it does more harm than good. Furthermore, this ineffectual style of ‘command and control’ reveals a lack of compassion in the leader because it doesn’t care about the needs and interests of those they lead. When leaders use force instead of persuasion, it shows a sub-par capacity for leadership learning. Not all displays of command and control need to be overt flexes of authority such that it strikes fear in our hearts and minds. Some leaders may passive-aggressively put up roadblocks – by leaning on tools such as red-tape, approvals and legal compliance and repercussions to maintain authority and control. (“No, you can’t do that until all these items are checked off first.”)
Not all harm is intentional. So how do we combat the use of leadership by force, whether we see it in others or in ourselves?
- Educate ourselves – Let’s ask ourselves what’s needed to be productive and sustainable. What’s right? And what’s wrong? In our Information Age, we need to filter out the relevant from the superfluous, while also distinguishing the truth from the lies. When we start learning about our and others’ needs, we start to develop a growth mindset that increases our capacity to apply other leadership tools, such as persuasion.
- Call out bad behaviours such as bullying, harassment and other forms of subjugation. It takes courage to speak out or admit errors in judgement. Although speaking out happens ‘after-the-fact,’ it is certainly better than not speaking up at all. Likewise, an apology may not fix the harm. However, when done sincerely, it is a great start! Some people might tell you calling out bad behaviour is self-serving, and it may feel this way. In truth, you’re benefiting many around you because it is the first step to rebuilding trust, culture, a country.
Think this blogpost is not complete, because I haven’t talked about persuasion yet? Please follow the Coach’s Corner blog series, where I’ll share some tips I’ve learned from leaders about persuasion in Part 2.