C-Suite Advisory

You Don’t Need To Be A Rock Star To Be An Effective Leader

You don’t need a rock star personality to be a rock star leader. Whether you are looking over your shoulder waiting for the tap from the chair of your board or you don’t think you have what it takes to get there, don’t fear. You have what it takes. You just need to see yourself in the right light.

If you think about it you will soon remember the soft-spoken leader, the one dressed in…well, let’s say…not the latest fashion, the one that was more technocrat than bureaucrat. Yet he or she made their mark.

What does it take to be a rock star leader? A combination of nous and the effective use of simple but effective influencing techniques.


If I could teach my young self I would teach this. Stand in the shoes of the person you wish to influence so that you clearly understand their world so you can tailor your message. It is so obvious.

Why would anyone listen to you if they do not understand your message?

Why would anyone listen if it turns out your message is designed around a misunderstanding? Take the CFO complaining to you that the customer service team does not care about budget. Is the customer service team ignorant of the numbers or are they putting customer service above profit? Is it reasonable under the circumstances or not? Stand in their shoes before passing judgement. Use your nous.

Why would anyone listen to you if they thought your message might harm them? Everyone puts up barriers to poor advice. While nearly every one of us would say we trust our mother, not everyone of us would trust our mother’s advice about the internet. We don’t want to make mistakes and look the fool.

To provide a compelling message that others will follow, you must stand in their shoes, understand them and tailor your message accordingly. And to stand in their shoes, take a tip from a French speaking colleague of mine.

“The French have a saying that to stand in the shoes of someone you must first take off your own”.

That is, drop your own barriers so you can see theirs.

Influencing Techniques

In his seminal 1984 book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Caildini introduced his six principles of persuasion. Use of your authority, making things scarce, showing social proof that others are agreeing, providing a gift to instil the need to reciprocate, starting small in terms of gaining commitment to lesser challenges and making sure you are likeable.

While each of these are valid principles, in the more than 30 years since we have learned much more about what influences us. We have delved into our innermost thoughts and found that we are both informed and compelled by pictures and stories.

The Most Compelling Leaders

The most compelling leaders I know have nous and know how to paint a picture and tell a story. Add to that their track record of building credibility through their expertise, their ability to adapt to the audience and their ability to exude trust and they become incredible leaders.

In the most simple terms, you don’t need a rock star personality to be a great leader, you need to be able to:

  • Stand in the shoes of others so you understand their world so you can describe your vision in their terms.
  • Paint a picture for clarity. While you may have a picture of the end result in your head, they will be forming their own and it might not be the same.
  • Tell a story to build emotions. Their decision to follow you will be primarily based on emotion, particularly the emotion of trust.
  • Make people believe with credibility. People need to see you being true to your word, working for them and most importantly, having a vision they want to align with.

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Bryan Whitefield
Bryan Whitefield mentors executives in organisations to increase their influence and improve decisions across their organisation. He is the author of Winning Conversations: How to turn red tape into blue ribbon and delivers his Persuasive Adviser Program across all sectors of the economy.