Discussion Post

Describe the effective use of influence tactics and what they are.

Influence tactics are how people enact power over others. (Wadsworth & Blanchard, 2015) The text describes “power tactics” as the ways or tactics used to assert upward, downward and lateral influence. (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 212-213)  Yukl and Falbe (1990) claim that the most important determinant of managerial effectiveness is the success achieved influencing subordinates (downward influence), peers (lateral influence) and superiors (upward influence). I would agree.

Yukl and Falbe (1990) develop a hypothesis on different influence tactics and how they are most effective, observing that:

  • Pressure tactics are coercive powers which are used most often with subordinates.
  • Upward appeals (going over someone’s head) are most effective with subordinates and peers and less effective with superiors.
  • Exchange tactics (the creation of a quid pro quo) are most effective with subordinates and peers and less effective with superiors.
  • Coalition tactics (building a constituency) are most effective in influencing superiors and peers and less effective with subordinates.
  • Inspirational appeals are most effective with subordinates and less effective with peers and superiors.
  • Consultation is most effective with subordinates and least effective superiors.

Robbins & Judge (2018) state that a “softer” tactics such as inspirational appeals, rational persuasion and consultation are more effective.  If the “softer” tactics don’t work “harder” tactics such as exchange, coalitions and pressure can be used, but these will also come at a greater cost and with greater risk.

Personally, I am a fan of the inspirational tactic with the coalition tactic close second.  I am not sure I agree with the text (Robbins & Judge, 2018, p. 213) or with Yukl and Falbe (1990) that inspirational appeals are more effective on subordinates and less effective on peers and superiors.  I suppose as a generalization it is always easier to inspire downward, but I believe as a leader inspirational tactics are equally impactful downward, upward and laterally.

As a player-coach, I tend to rely heavily on inspiration, do as I say not as I do.  I do find that the audience matters, there are times when absolute power is required, and there are times when a coalition which applies indirect pressure is required.  Overall I think who we are trying to influence and the situation has a significant bearing on tactics; it’s a mixture of art and science.

With virtual teams who lack face-to-face contact, influence can be far more complex. I like Wadsworth’s & Blanchard’s (2015) ambiguity reduction as an influence tactic.  Far too often our expectations are too ambiguous; this leads to situations where a lack of accountability creates a need for taking a “harder” tactic. Because I manage a virtual team, I make extensive use of the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix to ensure that there is no ambiguity and total transparency.  The more structure that is in place to ensure accountability and to metric execution and course correct when required the less need there is to level “hard” tactics to exercise influence.

Lastly, I’ll say that nothing creates more pressure than being led by a true leader who is always willing to go first.  The personal pressure a leader like this creates not to let them down, to carry your weight, to contribute, to set an example, etc… is immense, and all without exercising one ounce of ascribed power.


Robbins, S. P., & Judge, T. (2018). Essentials of organizational behavior. New York, NY: Pearson.

Wadsworth, M. B., & Blanchard, A. L. (2015). Influence tactics in virtual teams. Computers in Human Behavior, 44, 386-393. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.11.026

Yukl, G., & Falbe, C. M. (1990). Influence tactics and objectives in upward, downward, and lateral influence attempts. Journal of Applied Psychology, 75(2), 132-140. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.75.2.132


Response Post

Terrance, I enjoyed your post, like how you talked about the military recruitment ads and how they focus on positive influencers while omitting the mundane or potentially negative aspects. It was interesting to read your post after completing this weeks case study. I did not serve int he military (grateful to all those who did for their service), but curious if you think the military practices informational communication or constitutive communication? I can imagine that both exist and there is a lot of informational communication, process, chain of command, etc., but it sounds like you are talking about the military in the first person thus I am assuming you have practical experience with communication styles, so curious how much constitutive communication you experienced?

When using influence tactics knowing your audience is critical, as you point out the military is targeting people who enjoy an adventure. Do you think omitting the mundane is deceptive? In the absence of a target audience, I always feel like a deep belief and passion will have you as a leader assemble the right team. Simon Sinek posted a tweet on January 15, 2015, that said “Dr. King gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the ‘I have a plan’ speech. Lets inspire people with our dreams, not bore them with our plans”. Every leader I have ever felt inspired by had a deep belief and passion, they always went first, they always sacrificed so that the vision could be realized by others because they recognized that the power of we was far greater than the power of me.


@simonsinek. (2015, January 15). “Dr. King gave the ‘I have a dream’ speech, not the ‘I have a plan’ speech. Lets inspire people with our dreams, not bore them with our plans” [Twitter Post]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/simonsinek/status/557290520570257409?lang=en