I have found in my personal and professional experiences that there is a fine line between leadership and manipulation. I think in some cases, leadership styles incorporate manipulation and I can't seem to figure out if that's a bad thing or not. At first glance, the term manipulation has so much negative connotation that floats along with it.
Dictionary defines Manipulation in the following 4 manners :
|1.||( tr ) to handle or use, esp with some skill, in a process or action: to manipulate a pair of scissors|
|2.||to negotiate, control, or influence (something or someone) cleverly, skilfully, or deviously|
|3.||to falsify (a bill, accounts, etc) for one's own advantage|
|4.||(in physiotherapy) to examine or treat manually, as in loosening a joint|
We can quickly eliminate the last two definitions for the sake of this conversation. I am not sure the first definition is relevant, unless we want to consider the people we work and act with on a daily basis a 'tool.' And let's be honest, that is definitely the case sometimes...so many tools (An opportunity for a bad joke was there, my mentor would have been upset if I didn't take it). In order to bring some consistency to the conversation, I think the 2nd definition is the best for this topic. It is amazing how powerful the words are in that sentence 'negotiate, control, influence....cleverly, skillfully, deviously." All of those words are packed with a punch of either positivity or negativity, which really ties in with Leadership beautifully.
Leadershanipulation (I did it again) all depends on the intent. In student affairs, we always talk about have intentional conversations and asking intentional questions...I think that's great, but if we look at that a little deeper aren't we trying to 'influence (something or someone) cleverly, skillfully, or (gulp) deviously." Now, I am not arguing that we should not be asking intentional questions or having those conversations but I think the intent of those conversations requires further examination. What influence, if any, are we trying to apply? Who benefits?
Leadership and influence go hand in hand, I think it just boils down to the intent of the influence. The lines are blurry and hard to define at times whether you are working with students, staff, colleagues, or peers. I personally think, sometimes leaders need to manipulate in order to make a team feel like they are contributing and their voices are heard...even if a decision will inevitably be made regardless of the conversation. But that goes back to the intent, it's not for a personal gain or benefit but in order to maintain a cohesive group that believe their voice is heard and more importantly that it matters.