Both can be defined as influencing others. Both deal with trying to get someone to do what you want them to do. Both use many of the same tools. Both try to leverage an individual’s beliefs and feelings to elicit a desired behavior. So how do you know if you’re leading or just being manipulative?
The difference lies in your heart. Ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Your motives determine whether you’re leading or manipulating. Are you looking out for yourself or are you serving a greater good? Are you seeking your own comfort or challenging someone to realize their potential? Where is your heart?
When your leadership is infested with selfishness, it’s easy to become a manipulator. Sometimes this is subtle; sometimes it’s obvious. Either way, when leadership morphs into manipulation, people and organizations suffer. The victims include:
1. Those who are manipulated. They end up hurt, disillusioned, and discouraged. Worst of all, their ability to trust is diminished—which handicaps their ability to lead and function moving forward.
2. Those who witness manipulation. Their ability to trust is also degraded. They carry self-protective attitudes forward into future relationships—especially leader-follower relationships. When we see what others are capable of doing to us, it makes us wary. It makes us wince and pull ourselves in.
3. The organization as a whole. It suffers because collaboration, problem solving, decision-making, and synergy are all diminished in real-time. The result? Poor solutions. Over time the erosion of trust created by manipulative leadership is a cancer that will threaten the stability of the entire organization.
4. The manipulator himself. He will never reach his full potential, never find that place of maturity, confidence and peace. He will never know the fullness of satisfaction that comes from using your gifts to serve others. Some may say he deserves this ongoing turmoil, but remember, he may be you! We are all naturally self-centered and without conscious effort, our leadership will naturally slide to serve our own interests.
How have you seen leaders manipulate others? What were the effects? How do you guard against becoming manipulative?