Leadership is not just about commanding people and getting results. It’s also about the subtle nuances of influencing and manipulating one’s followers in order to achieve desired outcomes. The ability to effectively tap into the “psychological strings” of individuals, while at the same time establishing mutual trust and respect, can vastly increase a leader’s capabilities. However, it’s important to note that such strategies must be used carefully as any misuse could lead to fallouts or even backfires. In this article, we will discuss some common methods for influence and manipulation among leaders and explore how their nuances have a significant impact on their success.

On this episode of Peak Performance Leadership, we talk about the differences between influence and manipulation, inspired by a discussion in the Leader Growth Mastermind.

Timestamped Overview

  • [00:02:37] Mastermind helps you develop effective leadership skills.
  • [00:07:05] Positive and negative influence on behavior.
  • [00:09:43] Positive influence can also be manipulation.
  • [00:13:45] Motivating team to hit sales goal, throwing big party for success.
  • [00:16:25] Ethical considerations in positive influence and harm.
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The following is an AI generated transcript which should be used for reference purposes only. It has not been verified or edited to reflect what was actually said in the podcast episode. 


Scott McCarthy [00:00:00]:

Today on Episode 255 of the Peak Performance Leadership Podcast. Today we’re going to be talking about the differences between influence and manipulation. That’s right, folks. It’s all about the nuances of human behavior today. Are you ready for this? All right, let’s do it.

Scott McCarthy [00:00:24]:

Our channel, you welcome one, welcome all to the Peak Performance Leadership Podcast, a weekly podcast series dedicated to helping you hit peak performance across the three domains of leadership. Those being leading yourself, leading your team, and leading your organization. This podcast couples my 20 years of.

Scott McCarthy [00:00:46]:

Military experience as a senior Canadian Army.

Scott McCarthy [00:00:48]:

Officer with world class guests to bring you the most complete podcast of leadership going. And for more, feel free to check out our website@movingforwardleadership.com. And with that, let’s get to the show.

Scott McCarthy [00:01:09]:

Yes. Welcome one, welcome all to the Peak Performance Leadership Podcast. It is your Chief Leadership Officer, Scott McCarthy. Thanks for tuning into today’s episode where we’re talking about the differences between influence and manipulation. And if you’re like, hey, Scott, this is a different topic. What the heck? I’m going to tell you a quick little background on how this topic came to be about actually, and that is we discussed this during one of our group calls with the Leader Growth Mastermind. That’s right. We’re discussing this in the leader growth, mastermind. The differences between manipulation, influence, and where that line actually is drawn. It really came out. It was an ad hoc, spurtle moment type conversation. And I was like as we were discussing, like, wow, this is such an important topic. How have I not done a podcast episode on this yet? So here we are, today’s episode. But first, before we dive into the episode again, the Leader Growth Mastermind. You hear me mention it here and there, I’m going to take just a minute or two of your time. Because if you’re listening to this podcast, that tells me you’re hungry for more. If you want to stop consuming, just consuming content, but rather take action in developing yourself and help you lead more effectively across those three domains that we keep talking about leading yourself, leading your team and leading your organization, that is exactly what we do in the Mastermind. You see, each month, we take one of those domains and use it as the theme of the month. And each week, I provide you a curated content, content aligning with that domain. So, for example, in the past month of March, we were talking about leading our teams and basically, sorry, leading ourselves and increasing and developing and ensuring we have the skills to actively listen to our people. That was April. Each week, we looked at a little slice of this content provided to you, Billy, to reflect upon the content and how well you’re doing right now and where you might improve each week. Now, as we go into April, as this podcast is being released, first week of April, we actually are changing to leading our teams and developing high performing teams. That is what we do. And each week we get together on calls, we discuss our wins, we discuss our challenges and we discuss the content and how we may enact on this topic and these learnings that we are doing together. And then finally wrap it up with accountability. Accountability to develop yourself, to basically become the best leader that you’re meant to be. That is what we do. In the leader growth. Mastermind, people are getting amazing results. One person got a promotion while they were still on probation from the job they initially got hired for. Another person is getting so confident in leading their entire company that they are now no longer just working day to day, but looking what we refer to as up and out and actually looking at the organization from the strategic level, vice, the tactical day to day level. And then another person has made their team so tight that essentially they go to bat for each other without question. And they got approval to bring in a new person in their team as well. When money is tight, resources are tight. This is one of those things that are kind of unheard of, but yet here we are, we’re doing these things, we’re achieving these results, and it’s from the Mastermind. So if you’re ready, you’re hungry, you want to grow, come and join us. Go to lead. Don’tboss com, mastermind. And again I am here. If you have questions, I will gladly answer them for you. But at that link, all the information is there. But if you got more, I’m more than willing to help you out. So again, check it out. Lead. Don’t boss. Mastermind. All right, so today’s episode, let’s dive in, shall we? We’re going to be talking about what influence is, what manipulation is. We are going to discuss the fine line between the two and then we’re going to discuss some ethical considerations, right? So we’re going to go hard, we’re going to go fast, but you’re going to get a lot out of this episode. So let’s start with influence. Influence is the ability to affect the thoughts, feelings and behavior of others. All right? It can be positive or negative. You can negatively influence people. We’ll get into a little bit more of that later. But really we’re looking at positive and positive influence. And that’s when you’re encouraging others to make healthy choices. Kind of like get on that fitness regime, do some better healthier eating, quit smoking, motivating them to pursue their goals, influencing something, maybe to write that book or run that marathon, or go and get a job that they’re after, or basically inspiring them to be their best selves, right? You hear all the different success stories from all these different coaching applications. Heck, I was just talking about that just literally, what, a minute and a half ago about the Leader Growth Mastermind, right? Here I am trying to influence you to say hey, I want to inspire you to live your bellies. And through the growth mastermind, you can do that. Now, negative influence can include peer pressure to engage in some risky behavior. So you see this a lot in teens promoting harmful ideologies. So again, cults for example, where they end up harming themselves. That is negative influence or influencing someone to commit a crime, right? And again, you see that in teens, especially the younger ages, right? So influence is basically persuasion through genuine communication, reasoning and what you’re doing when you’re trying to influence things, someone is trying to focus on their needs and desires. So you’re trying to really focus in on that person and what they need, what they desire. Right? Now, on the other hand, let’s talk a bit about manipulation. And we’re not talking about manipulation in the physical sense of manipulation, right? So manipulation can be used in a physical sense where you’re manipulating something, I e moving something. But in this context it actually is very similar. You see, it’s the use of deceptive or coercive tactics to control others, right? So you can have positive manipulation. It’s going to be negative, right? So positive manipulation can be used using persuasion. Occurred someone take a positive change such as like quitting smoking or starting an exercise routine. But to me, when I hear that, to me I’m like that’s more influencing. We’re trying to get someone to get on it. But really when we think of manipulation, we truly think about the negative aspects and that is controlling the person either through deceptive, deception, coercing them. And basically what you’re trying to do is to benefit from whatever that person is doing, right? So you’re using that coercion and deception to achieve your goals. So let’s go back to the example that they give there in that you can influence, let’s say you have a spouse who you believe requires to get in better shape, quit smoking or whatever. And maybe you want them to get in better shape so you can turn around and influence them, motivate them, inspire them. Like, yeah, here’s a gym membership, here is time, here’s ability to go to the gym, I’ll take care of the kids, stuff like this. That’s positive, that’s influencing. But in the background, if you’re thinking I’m no longer attracted to you, I want you to look better. I don’t feel good going out with you in public and having all these negative things you need to achieve this goal that I have in my head for you so that I can be happy and go out with you. That is manipulation. So you’re like taking this really negative, right, this really negative standpoint of wanting them to do something, wrapping it with this positivity and using that to influence them to achieve something that you want them to achieve. So that is like a home example. So let’s look at it from the workplace example. So maybe let’s say you’re on a sales team and you got a goal for $1 million in sales this year, and you guys are at like 900 and some odd thousand dollars worth of sales, and you’re just almost there, but the year is almost done. And in your contract, you get a nice fat bonus if you hit that million dollars of sales. So you turn around and you pump your team up. You tell them how close we are to this goal that the company has set that we haven’t achieved before. Tell them how great sales team they are. They can do it. They can go out, they can land these deals. Let’s go hard, let’s get it done. But the reality is in the back of your head the only reason why you’re saying all these things is because you want that signing bonus, that bonus that you had in your contract that is you’re manipulating them. And of course this research that I got here, no matter what you do today there’s always a little bit of conflicting. So when we break it down we look at the fine line between the two. To me Scott McCarthy influencing is when you’re trying to get people to do things with the overall intent being for positive reasons, right? And you could say hey Scott and let’s go back to that work example. So let’s use that as a work example. So you’re motivating your team to hit that sales goal and you know, but they don’t know about the bonus however you think and you tell yourself that when we hit it and I get the bonus I’m going to throw the biggest party for my team that they’ve ever seen. I’m going to take a large sum of that money because they’re the ones who did the work. They’re the reason why we hit the goal and I’m going to ensure they get to enjoy it. You see there’s positivity here. There is positivity here. And you think to yourself I don’t want to tell them that because if we don’t hit it I don’t want them to go down on themselves because no matter what we have achieved something in this company that has never been achieved before. Who cares if we show up a few thousand dollars short before? The reality is the last highest grossing sales in this company in previous years has been 850,000. We’ll say we’ve already beat it and we are almost at this goal that has never been achieved before. Now you are positively influencing something. Right? Manipulation is all but the negativity. You’re doing it only for your personal game. There’s a negative connotation to the reasons why you’re trying to get people to do it. Good old stereotypical use carol salesman tactics can be looked at as manipulation. And again back to my and sorry sales folks that are listening. You’re getting a bad rap today but I love you all, don’t worry. Anyway, but back to my sales example. You manipulate people. Why? So that you get the bonus that you benefit from it. That they do not. You don’t care how much they work, how many hours they put in, what they do, what they miss with their family, so on and so forth, then you’re into the manipulation zone. That is essentially the difference. Now let’s look at quickly the ethical considerations between the two, right? Because a lot of people will like, oh, there’s negative things connotation to influencing. You negatively influence people. Of course, as I said to me, that’s you’re doing something for the positive. But still there’s ethical considerations because you can potentially do harm to people, especially even if you’re trying to influence them to do something in the background, you know, something. So back to my example of trying to positively influence them to throw this big party. You might be running your team to the ground, going after this goal and you’re like, hey, and if you told them that if we hit the million dollars, I get a bonus, but I’m throwing you a party, some people may go, I am burnt out. I don’t care for the party. Who cares? You’re bringing undue harm potentially to them. However, on the other side of the coin is that you need to consider the ethical considerations of trying to influence someone to do something good in their lives. So for example, we all know smoking is horrible for you, right? It’s no secret, 50 million studies out there smoking leads to all kinds of different health risks, right? So if you have someone who’s close to you and you try to influence them to quit smoking, take better care of themselves, now the ethical consideration there is that you are actually helping them. Okay? So these are the differences, ladies and gentlemen. So to sum things up for you to understand the difference between the two is basically you’re making informed decisions about our actions and how they impact others. And that if we’re using influence, again, according to Scott McCarthy, we are doing it with positive connotation behind it, positive intent behind it. We want to truly help the individuals that we’re influencing. But if we’re looking to harm, if we’re looking to just get self benefit, if we are doing it from a negative connotation place, then we’re manipulating. Hope this helps you. I hope this helps you maybe even feel at ease because often leaders wonder if they’re on the wrong side of this line when they’re trying to get their people to do things. Just think about the intent behind it. As long as you do that and you truly believe in your heart you’re doing it for positive reasons, not just for you, but the other person. More importantly, the other person, then you’re going to come out on the right side of the track. That’s it for this week, ladies and gentlemen. Hope you enjoyed. Thanks always and again, if you’re ready to level up your leadership, you’re ready to come to the next level. Come check us out. Leader growthmastermind at lead. Don’tboss com, mastermind. And I can’t wait to see you there.

Scott McCarthy [00:19:50]:

And that’s a wrap for this episode, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for listening. Thank you for supporting the peak Performance Leadership podcast. But you know what you could do to truly support the podcast? And no, that’s not leaving a rating and review. It’s simply helping a friend. And that is helping a friend by sharing this episode with them. If you think this would resonate with them and help them elevate their performance level, whether that’s within themselves, their teams, or their organization, so do that. Help me help a friend win win all around. And hey, you look like a great friend at the same time. So just hit that little share button on your app and then feel free to fire this episode to anyone that you feel would benefit from it. Finally, there’s always more there’s always more lessons around being the highest performing leader that you can possibly be, whether that’s for yourself, your team, or your organization. So why don’t you subscribe subscribe to the showdia moving forwardleadership.com. Subscribe. Until next time.

Scott McCarthy [00:21:02]:


Scott McCarthy [00:21:03]:

Don’t boss. And thanks for coming out. Take care now.