Manipulation is the art of exerting influence to achieve a specific outcome or response – in other words, getting people to do what you want them to do.
Based on that definition, it's easy to see why some of the most successful leaders are also skilled manipulators.
Despite its connotations, manipulation doesn't have to be a negative leadership trait. In fact, many small business leaders could benefit from incorporating manipulative techniques into their leadership skill set. But first, you'll need to learn how to employ manipulation in an ethical and responsible manner.
Ethical manipulation techniques are always motivated by the achievement of carefully defined goals and outcomes. It's inappropriate to manipulate others for your personal gain or enjoyment. However, it's completely appropriate and necessary to use manipulation as a tool to help others achieve common goals for your business or organization.
With that in mind, here are a few of the ways you can use ethical manipulation techniques to achieve your company's strategic goals and objectives.
- To influence. Manipulation is primarily geared toward influencing someone else to do something that they may not be naturally inclined to do. Although they might prefer to approach the task from a different perspective, manipulative leadership techniques exert appropriate and often subtle pressure to adopt an approach the leader believes will be most useful in achieving the desired outcomes.
- To persuade. It's not uncommon for leaders and subordinates to disagree about concepts, processes, or objectives. The application of manipulative leadership techniques can be used to persuade subordinates or peers to adapt to your way of thinking. Rather than bulldozing them, these techniques let you present your case and offer an opportunity for the other person to come around to your point of view.
- To inspire. When exercised from the right motivation, manipulative leadership can inspire the people around you. For example, if you are facing an extremely long and difficult project in the months ahead, you might throw your team a few easy projects now to build up their confidence. Is that manipulation? Absolutely – but it can inspire your team to believe in their ability to deliver results and achieve goals as a collaborative business unit.
- To unify. Workplace conflicts are unavoidable. But as a leader, you can manipulate situations to create a more unified team. Transfers, strategic team pairings, and other strategies can eliminate conflicts before they occur.