Developing Influence and Assertive Leadership

Providing support and challenge while strengthening results and relationships

Whether you give feedback or sell a product or an idea, it requires an understanding of how your behavior affects others to influence.


All people have their own personality – the outcome of both nature and nurture – and this remains mainly unchanged. However, behavior is distinct: it can be created and improved in a flexible way.

  • Considering behavior (yours and others) in terms of warmth or coldness, dominance or submissiveness is useful
  • Warm means being helpful, open, positive, empathetic, constructive and engaging-not just ‘ friendly ‘
  • Cold means being suspicious, detached, not focused on individuals or relationships
  • Dominant implies being difficult, in command, confident, powerful, authoritative and direct
  • Submissive means subjugating your own ideas or behavior for something or someone else

The diagram below (the assertiveness model) highlights different types of behavior (based on the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument).

Aggressive: dominant and cold behavior

When dealing with aggressive behavior, the best strategy is to:

  • Raise your dominance to match their elevated dominance levels
  • Ensure that you demonstrate behavior that is assertive and warm rather than aggressive
  • Use open questions to create understanding
  • Use body language and tone of voice to raise your dominance levels

Avoiding: cold and submissive behavior

The first priority when dealing with avoiding behavior is to engage people. Useful methods include displaying reduced dominance and higher warmth, using open questions aimed at making them feel safe and softening body language and intonation while continuing to smile.

Appeasing: warm and submissive behavior

When dealing with appeasing people, it can help to:

  • Remain focused on keeping them on track
  • Use open questions that appeal to their social requirements, but temper them with closed questions when they waffle
  • Ask summary questions to maintain clarity and focus
  • Use their name if you interrupt them

Assertive: warm and dominant behavior

It can help to be assertive when dealing with conflict and also encourage others to be assertive. Consider how simple it is to warm up behavior: why and when is it not simple? Why do we not act in an assertive way as individuals? What is hindering supportive and challenging behavior? Finally, what are the most significant questions you need to ask?

Being self-aware about your leadership style and those of your peers will help you build and nurture the right culture apart from handling difficult situations. Invest in this essential skill and go one step ahead in your career.

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