The Art of Influencing Others

Key Takeaways

  • Research reveals that managers’ tactics to influence others tend to fall into 11 categories.
  • The most frequently used tactics are using weak rationales, pressure and/or praise and flattery to influence others.
  • However, the most effective tactic — using value and vision to inspire others to gain commitment—is the least frequently used influence method.

As a manager, you may often find yourself asking others to work on projects, tasks or assignments. Some of these manners of doing so may seem effective, however others may be met with reluctance, avoidance or passive receptions.

Why do some of these attempts of influencing others work while the others do not? What are the most effective influence tactics? The science of leadership can tell you a thing or two.

Professor Gary Yukl and his colleagues have been studying managers’ influence attempts for more than two decades. According to their research, there are 11 proactive influence tactics managers tend to use:[1],[2]

  • Rational persuasion: The manager uses logical arguments and facts to show that a request is feasible and relevant.
  • Consultation: Asks the followers for suggestions to help improve a plan or activity to gain buy-in.
  • Inspirational appeals: Gains support and acceptance through leading with inspiration, vision and value.
  • Collaboration: Offers support and assistance if the follower will carry out a task or assignment.
  • Apprising: Makes the tasks appealing by clarifying how they can benefit the followers personally or advance their careers.
  • Ingratiation: Uses praise and flattery to gain support.
  • Personal appeals: Asks others to carry out a request out of friendship or a personal favor.
  • Exchange: Gains support in exchange for reciprocation.
  • Legitimating: Uses authority and power of the position to get followers to carry out tasks.
  • Pressure: Uses demands, threats, frequent checking or persistent reminders to influence others to do something.
  • Coalition: Influences the target to do something by enlisting the aid or support of others.

Among these tactics, inspirational appeal, consultation and rational appeal* were found to be the most effective influence methods (with inspirational appeal being the most effective among all three); coalition and pressure were found to be the least effective influence methods (these tactics tend to be not only ineffective, but they have negative impacts on employee outcomes).

A further examination of these influence attempts found that despite the effectiveness of these tactics, the most frequently used influence methods were using pressure, exchange, coalition and weak rational.

The most effective method — inspirational appeal — was found to be the least frequently used. Meanwhile, the other most effective influence methods were also found to be used infrequently.[3]

These findings can have very important practical implications for managers.  As a manager and a leader, you should start to develop more skills in using these effective influence tactics and decrease the use of the methods with negative impacts.

In my next article, let’s talk about how to inspire people.

*Note: For rational persuasion to be effective, strong rationales are needed. But too often, managers tend to adopt weak rationales (giving weak arguments and insufficient facts).

[1] Copyright © 2001 by Gary Yukl.

[2] Yukl, G., Seifert, C.F., & Chavez, C. (2008). Validation of the extended influence behavior questionnaire. The Leadership Quarterly, 19, 609-621.

[3] Yukl, G., Kim, H., & Falbe, C.M. (1996). Antecedents of influence outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 81, 309-317.

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February 6, 2022 at 5:01 pm

Authority. This is one of the most dangerous types of influence. It can be the absolute most powerful, but it can also be the most corrupting if used to the extreme. Stanley Milgram showed the great lengths people will go to in order to obey authority. In some cases, participants in his experiment delivered what they thought was a crippling shock to another person, simply because they were told they had to do so by a person in the study that they thought was a real doctor. These titles, uniforms, and other visual displays of authority go a long way towards influencing people.


Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.