Ethical Leadership

Leadership and Manipulation

Skilled leaders regularly manipulate others to achieve goals and objectives. But is manipulation an ethical leadership strategy in a small business?

Leadership skills are part of business ownership. Many of your ownership responsibilities involve setting goals and creating strategies to achieve them - moving your company and your people from Point A to Point B is what leadership is all about.

Leadership and Manipulation

The word "manipulation" isn't usually associated with leadership, at least not in a good way. For most people manipulation is the dark side of leadership. In the workplace, it often refers to a leadership technique that coerces or forces people to do what the leader wants them to do.

But if you think about it, isn't that part of a leader's job description? In fact, effective leaders routinely influence other people to move in a certain direction for the benefit of the business and the people themselves. When exercised appropriately, manipulation can be a legitimate and powerful leadership tool.

  • Manipulation motivates people. Although there is potential for abuse, effective leadership manipulates people to set and achieve goals. As a leader, you're responsible for manipulating your employees to perform at the highest possible level and to work toward the achievement of a common goal, even if the goal or process clashes with your employees' personal preferences.
  • Manipulation guides processes. Without strong leadership, business processes have a tendency to go off-track. If manipulation is defined as influencing your team members to do what you want them to do, then you have a duty to manipulate and focus the processes that are essential for your company's success.
  • Manipulation targets outcomes. When it's properly used, manipulation targets outcomes, not people. Unless you have a clear understanding of the outcomes you want to achieve, manipulative leadership techniques are inappropriate. Your leadership will be perceived as arbitrary because it lacks consistency and focus.
  • Manipulation respects others. More than anything else, manipulative leadership goes out of its way to respect others. Although good leadership requires you to influence people to do what you want them to do, your motivation should always be the achievement of a larger goal rather than humiliation or disrespect. Whenever possible, invite others to take ownership of the activity and to become partners in achieving desired outcome.

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