(Reprinted with permission of Incentive magazine, written by Nora Wood.)

As organizations have flattened corporate hierarchies and adopted open-space work environments, the nature of authority in the workplace has been affected. Today’s manager must work among his people, instead of sequestered in his office. Also he must delegate much more responsibility due to downsizing and experiments with cross-functional teams. Unfortunately, most managers haven’t received much advice on how to thrive in this new environment.

In Winning ‘Em Over: A New Model for Managing in the Age of Persuasion (Simon and Shuster, $25), author Jay Conger argues that these changes require managers to work through influence and persuasion rather than outmoded notions of control. “A large part of what we do as effective managers is to find optimal solutions for problems through investigation, discussion and debate. We then convince our organization to get behind them. It is in the convincing part that we face our greatest hurdles—getting buy-in. This is where the skills of constructive persuasion play a vital role...Success at these skills will not only get you greater commitment to initiatives but, just as important, better ideas and solutions from your staff and colleagues, and much better teamwork.

According to Conger, there are four steps to becoming an effective persuader: building credibility; finding common ground so that others have a stake in your ideas; developing compelling positions and evidence; and emotionally connecting with your co-workers so they feel committed to the decision.

Conger is a professor of management at the University of Southern California. He also wrote Spirit at Work, Learning to Lead: The Charismatic Leader and Charismatic Leadership.

Until recently, managers could simply influence others by the power of their position and the right to command that accompanied that position. Bosses had what we call formal authority. It ensured respect and obedience from those beneath to get many things done: the John Wayne school of management. There you are, high in the saddle. So you mosey into town, bark out some orders, watch everybody scatter to get the job done, and then you ride on to the next problem situation—mission accomplished.

Today the power of this school of managing is diminishing. Instead, new generations of managers and subordinates are re-shaping what it means to be “the boss.” They are a sharp contrast with previous command-style generations. For example, today’s most effective bosses are influencing others to action through novel and positive forms of persuasion. As a result, the best among this new generation of managers can get levels of commitment and motivation that their predecessors could only dream of.

Winning ‘Em Over

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