Knowledge, Personality, and Persuasive Power

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By John Hunter, author of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog.

As I use the term here, the job of a leader is to accomplish transformation of his organization. He possesses knowledge, personality, and persuasive power.

W. Edwards Deming, The New Economics, page 116

This is a wonderful, succinct quote on the sources of influence available to a leader, and in fact everyone else too.

You have knowledge that can be applied to achieving whatever is being attempted. That knowledge is used as well in helping improve the system over the long term.

Your personality will impact your ability to succeed. If you are outgoing you will be more easily able to reach out to others. If you are persistent you will overcome short term obstacles. If you are curious you will seek out new knowledge. If you are happy often you will make those around you happy and likely find people interested in helping you.

And your persuasive power impacts your ability to convince others of the wisdom of what you believe. Sometimes this persuasive power is detrimental, for example, when you convince others to follow a path that was in fact unwise. A person that has persuasive power is able to convince people to make wise decisions, but also to convince people to make unwise decisions.

Thus it is best for the organization when that person has knowledge; and also the wisdom to know when they would be better off seeking someone else’s advice. That wisdom is more rare, in my experience.

These traits, while providing a guide to understand your means to influence the organization also provide a guide for potential weaknesses in your management system. There is really no advantage to having decisions unduly influenced by those with persuasive power while ignoring ideas from those without much ability to persuade people. What you really want it to follow the best course of action, not the course championed by the most persuasive person.

And actually the Deming management system does address that to some extent. Our psychology cannot be comply overcome, so persuasive power remains an unduly large factor in convincing people.

Using tools and concepts like the PDSA cycle, data based decision making, respect for people will help the organization alleviate some of the weaknesses we have due to our psychology that leads us to follow more charismatic and persuasive people even if the idea isn’t as wise as one championed by someone without much charisma.

The management system also seeks to encourage the constant seeking more knowledge and the testing of knowledge using experiments. And by encouraging an understanding of variation it seeks to reduce the risk of people being mislead by persuasive people that are making claims unsupported by the data.

Related: Dr. Deming on Leadership (includes more context for quote above)W. Edwards Deming on Leadership and Management of PeopleYour authority stems from: position, knowledge and personality

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