What’s Your Leadership Influence Style?

Leadership, at its core, is about influencing others: It’s about inspiring people to take your cue, get on board and move towards a desired outcome.

How do you, personally, get people to buy, agree, support or listen?

While there are certain qualities that all great leaders share, the way they go about influencing others can differ. In interviewing and observing hundreds of people who have to influence in their organizations, I’ve seen five distinct styles surface again and again:

1. The Disruptor.

  • Key qualities: Assertive, confident, direct and persistent, believing their solutions or ideas are extremely important.
  • Viewed as a critical source for new insights and new thinking.

This style is unafraid to confront others with their position and will be willing to explore all avenues of influence to bring people on board. The greatest win for a Disruptor is to succeed in changing the way others think.

2. The Expert.

  • Key qualities: Relies on details, data and logic to maintain control; knowledge and facts trump gut instinct and intuition.
  • Viewed as an authority who has done the homework and knows what they’re talking about.

To this group of influencers, moving others requires a sharp mind and wit.  They are always looking for the latest evidence or a new model. Often they are sufficiently warm and sincere but not noticeably so.

The Organizer.

  • Key qualities: Thinks in terms of “mission;” brings together fragmented or disconnected stakeholders to rally behind an idea or solution.
  • Viewed as a connector who can build partnerships across systems.

Organizers foster communication and collaboration by cutting through bureaucracy and silos. They work grassroots campaigns to achieve big-picture objectives while always remaining aware of policy and structural constraints. Because of their ability to build partnerships across systems, they can make bold requests for support on their behalf.

4. The Magnet.

  • Key qualities: Relies on dynamic personality, superior communication skills and contagious enthusiasm.
  • Viewed as energetic supporters who care about the issue and the people involved. 

These influencers win people over with their dynamic style and genuine interest in others. The best Magnets also have the ability to back up their winsome personality with sufficient research. While not having as much depth to their approach, Magnets often demonstrate strengths from each of the other categories and do it in a way that lights a room.

5. The Facilitator.

  • Key qualities: Naturally curious, leading with questions in order to engage and develop a case for action.
  • Viewed as synthesizers who can combine disparate ideas, data and opinions into a solution everyone can get behind.

This is the most common profile for successful and well-regarded influencers. They are warm, humble and quickly establish a foundation of trust to allow others to speak openly. One Facilitator told me that he “asks lots of open-ended questions and then molds his ideas around what he’s given.” This profile is also very good at reading body language, connecting data points and digging below the surface of responses. In addition to facilitating dialogue, they also facilitate a team approach to solving problems.

Great leaders also recognize that one style doesn’t always fit all situations. Next week I’ll be discussing some of the reasons—and ways—to flex your leadership influence style.

In the meantime, share with us in the comments: Which style do you think most closely represents your approach to influence?



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  • Courtney Shuster
    February 5, 2014 at 6:27 pm

    Great post Matt. So often we think of some of these key qualities as downsides (e.g., “assertive, direct and persistent” or “relies on detail, data and logic to maintain control”). This is a great reminder of how we can value these strengths in people and help them see how they can use those qualities to influence positively within teams and across teams. I’ve always liked to approach influence from the “synthesizer” position, sussing out others’ ideas and then connecting the dots in a clear way for others to build and iterate on. I’ve found the best models in the Facilitator role demonstrate a great capacity for empathy and adaptability as well. Thanks for sharing this!

    • normanblogger
      February 6, 2014 at 8:39 pm

      Thanks Courtney! Great call-out that we succeed in influencing differently based on our strengths. I like your concept of a “synthesizer” position. While the Organizer and Facilitator might be most naturally skilled at synthesizing, it’s a skill all profiles could develop. Your point is well taken that we can add value by helping people to clarify their thinking. Thanks again for reading the post and for responding!

  • Sherri Troyer
    February 17, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Hey Matt…I figured it out! Great article….I find that I have to move between the different styles as a result of the diverse team and business line partners we work with. I look forward to reading your blog for different ways to approach my role. Hope you are well.

    • normanblogger
      February 17, 2014 at 4:32 pm

      Glad you figured it out Sherri! Thanks for the feedback and comments. Great point you make about being flexible across businesses and partner roles. Have a great week!