Influence Tactics

Effective leaders repeatedly face the challenge of influencing subordinates to accomplish organizational goals.  For leaders to effectively communicate and persuade followers, researchers have identified behavioral influence tactics to be used individually or combined with the intention of changing workers’ attitudes, beliefs, values or behaviors (Pennsylvania, 2014).  These tactics can appeal to followers’ deepest-held values, offer logic and reason, or serve as threats or demands (Hallet, 2014).  Leaders assess the situation and decide which tactic(s) would be most effective at changing their team’s behavior.  There is an art to this science of persuasion, and it is described by a psychologist named Robert Cialdini (Science of Persuasion).  Selecting the best influence tactic is an important step in achieving the desired outcome and each of us, not just business leaders, use these methods to influence the beliefs or actions of others to suit our needs.

Leadership scholars Gary Yukl and J. Bruce Tracey identified 11 influencers in the early 1980s (Hallet, 2014).  The list can be split between positive and negative, and soft (pull) and hard (push) type of strategies.  Positive tactics are described as those that do not harm relationships when you use them.  These influencers are: rational persuasion, apprising, inspirational appeal, consultation, exchange, and collaboration.  On the other hand, negative tactics are defined as those that strain relationships, hurt others, and/or damage reputations, and these include legitimization, coalition, pressure, ingratiation, and personal appeals (Hallet, 2014).  A description of each influencer can be found on this Web site 11 Influencers.  The difference between soft and hard (pull and push) tactics is the amount of freedom the leader allows the follower to accept his or her influence.  Hard tactics such as exchange, legitimization, pressure, assertiveness, apprising, and coalition offer  individuals less freedom, while soft tactics such as personal appeal, consultation, inspirational appeal, ingratiation, and rational persuasion allow more latitude in deciding whether or not to accept the influence (University, 2007).  Of course, this applies to both personal and business relationships.  Something as small as persuading your partner where to dine or what movie to watch can be almost as difficult as a CEO urging executive officers to take his or her side when make a large monetary commitment.

The list of influence tactics has also been divided into what I feel is the most important function of influencers:  effectiveness.  The distinction is a matter of opinion and varies based on the situation, but in general, the most effective influence tactics include rational persuasion, inspirational appeal, consultation, and collaboration (Rykrsmith, 2011).  As such, the remainders are considered to have a moderate or low level of effectiveness.  The latter tactics work well and possibly even better than the former in many situations.  Proper assessment of the situation, whether you are a leader or follower, and if the tactic is being used in business or personal life, will govern which tactic(s) will receive the best result.  And the tactic that is effective with a particular person or group one day might not be as effective the next day on another group.

Once a leader selects an influence tactic, its success is determined by the response of the follower.  The follower may resist the leader’s efforts to modify his or her behavior, and it may occur in a few forms.  The follower could outright refuse or ignore the leader, make excuses why they cannot comply, ask a higher authority to overrule the leader, attempt to persuade the leader to retract the pursuit, delay acting on the influence, or pretend to comply with the request while attempting to sabotage it.  Another possible outcome is unenthusiastic or apathetic compliance on the part of the follower.  The follower’s behavior would be successfully influenced, but not his or her attitude.  The third outcome, the purpose of the tactic, is commitment from the follower.  He or she chooses to accept the influence and makes a voluntary effort to do what is asked.  The result occurs because the follower willingly commits to the requested behavior (University, 2007).

In conclusion, in everyday life, choosing an influence tactic is often required when we are seeking to change the attitudes, beliefs, values, or behaviors of another individual.  In business, leaders use influencers to help achieve organizational goals through modifying their followers’ behavior.  Using these tactics to master the art of persuasion is an important function for leaders.  Any single or combination of tactics can be utilized regardless of its positive or negative, soft or hard, nature.  The leader needs to determine what influence tactic works best for the situation and the person or group.  The most effective tactics are those resulting in commitment from the follower.



Candy, L. (2013). 6 Influence tactics – using Cialdini’s science of persuation.  Retrieved from

Hallet, T. (2014). Yukl and Tracey’s influences – choosing the most appropriate approach to influence.  Retrieved from

Pennsylvania State University World Campus, (2014). Lesson Commentary 7: Power and Influence. Retrieved from 001/content/07_lesson/03_page.html

Rykrsmith, E. (2011).  Becoming a better influencer: 4 most effective influence tactics (part I). Retrieved from

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Publications (2007). Influence: the essence of leadership.  Retrieved from



  1. Joe Charles Davis

    First, I agree that an effective leader is one who can appeal to followers’ deepest-held values, offer logic and reason, or use threats to get the job done. It is interesting that you mention that a leader should assess the situation and decide which tactic or tactics to use that will be most effective at moving or changing not only the teams’ behavior but the individual as well. This sounds simple, but what actually is the most effective way to do this? How do you select the best influence tactic? You mention that this is the most important step in achieving the desired outcome. I will tell you that it is by knowing the people who work for you. By understanding where they are at with their understanding, their time with the organization, and their overall educational level. I will also say that the other side to this equation is the actual leader and their ability to solve complex organizational problems as we defined in the skills approach (Northouse, 2013, p 43)

    You make a good case for the positive and negative and soft (pull) and the hard (push) type of strategies. From many years in the work force, I will say that all tactics are beneficial to the leader but a good leader must be able to choose the right tactic and actually use it. Leaders cannot be afraid to use negative or hard push type tactics to in order to get the job done. I have found that rational persuasion with a clear logical and factual explanation for the job at hand coupled or meshed with the individuals or team through the process of consultation where the worker actually participates in the planning of the activity or work seems to produce the best results. This combination seems to produce a good ream environment while fostering ownership to the issue or situation. The use of legitimizing tactic where the leader uses his position to apply pressure where needed is also an enhancing aspect of this combination.

    I will also state that based on the situation, different combination of influencers is effective. The combination I offered is different than the one you feel is most important. That is based on situation and being comfortable with that approach. We need to start somewhere and that is usually where we are most comfortable. But situation dictates the approach and good leaders see this and are able to change the way they engage subordinates with different tactics to fit the actual situation and worker combination in order to solve complex organizational problems.


    1. Northouse, Peter G. (2013) Leadership: Theory and Practice. Sixth Edition. Sage Publications. 2013.

  2. Esmeralda Zavala

    I have seen tactics used almost daily by my boss, my children, and even myself. The most innocent (soft) of influential tactics I’ve seen are those that my children use when they are trying to gain that extra hour of video game time with inspirational persuasion and bargaining power. This type of tactic does not hurt anyone.

    One negative experience I had was by a former boss who approached me requesting access of documents only I had access to and he used his coercive power as a leader to obtain this from me. He applied indirect pressure, which at the time I had no knowledge of such tactics yet my gut was telling me something was off, but he succeed in achieving his desired outcome…obtaining the documents.

    Obviously, this is something that stayed with me since I can still recall the situation. However, knowledge is power and knowing what I know now, I can never be put in any such situations again.

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