Are You a Dominator, Manipulator, Persuader or Influencer?

By Marshall Goldsmith

My great friend, Connie Dieken is a member of our 100 Coaches, an expert on leadership influence, and the author of the bestselling books Talk Less, Say More and Become the Real Deal. Founder of Influence360° and The Dieken Group, and a 5-time Emmy award-winning journalist, Connie is a social scientist who has spent two decades dissecting what influence really is.

In our interview this week, Connie explains her theory and describes the four different styles leaders use to achieve outcomes.

Marshall: Connie, tell me about leadership influence. Your research has identified four different styles to help people get to outcomes. What are the four styles you’re talking about?

Connie: I’m a social scientist, so I’ve spent the last two decades trying to dissect what influence is. I recognized that we weren’t all talking about the same thing when we talked about influence.

Studying this with a team of sociologists and psychologists, we found two variables to people who are influential. We plotted them on a two by two matrix: the vertical axis is gain. Is the gain self-centered, one-sided gain, or is it mutual gain? On the horizontal axis, is sustainability, in other words, how long does the change last? Is it short- or long-term change?

From this, we found that there are four styles: dominators, manipulators, persuaders, and influencers. Dominators are in the bottom right hand quarter. They are trying to have long term impact, but it’s only self-centered, it’s for them. So, they will coerce and control for long term compliance. This can lead to catastrophic change. So, when you look at people like, Kenneth Lay or Bernie Madoff, that is what happens, they are often brought down by a whistle blower.

The next category, moving to the left on the bottom, is manipulators. Manipulators will mislead or apply pressure in order to get what they want. They will use power plays and hissy fits. They will do anything to get what you want, or what they want, and it’s all short term. Think of Elizabeth Holmes, from Theranos or Billy McFarland convicted fraudster who co-founded the Fyre Festival. Manipulators tend to flame out faster than the dominators.

The top left quadrant is where the persuaders are. Many people who believe they are influential are actually persuasive and that means they’re not getting long term results. They’ll use a worker bee mentality, rhetorical appeals, charisma, anything to get people to do something now. The issue is that leaders are often under the illusion that they’re influencing when they’re just being persuasive. The trap of persuasion is that you are completely vulnerable to the next persuasive person who comes along.

Marshall: And if they’re better than you, you lose.

Connie: Absolutely, and it’s inefficient, it’s ineffective, it is exhausting and so you’re completely reinventing the wheel all over.

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My life’s work is to help leaders move from the top left quadrant of persuasion into the top right quadrant of influence. This is where you elevate and shape the future by leading lasting change. Of course the first person you have to influence is you, and that’s what keeps many people trapped in the persuasive quadrant. Persuaders think that if they can just talk people into doing something, the outcome will happen. But it won’t This is a trap. My goal is to help people understand influence and then be able to move into it, so that they can lead lasting change and not just these little one offs, because they are absolutely hurting their own opportunities in life and aren’t making the contributions to the world that they could by thinking short term.

Marshall: Thank you Connie! I think what you’re doing is fantastic.

Connie: Thank you Marshall.

Founder of Influence360 and the Dieken Group and best-selling author of Talk Less, Say More and Become the Real Deal, Connie Dieken defines influence to open this exceptional new series about the importance of being an influential leader in today’s modern world.

Learn more at

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