Leaders are manipulators?

Geoff Webb wisely observes, “There’s a thin line between leadership and manipulation. Both can be defined as influencing others.”

Manipulators and leaders:

  1. Recognize and compliment the strengths of others
  2. Tap into the emotions of others
  3. Exhibit vision and make plans
  4. Create buy-in
  5. Understand that people want to matter
  6. Identify enemies
  7. Help people come to their own conclusions
  8. Have passion to make things “better”
  9. Help others succeed (or believe they are succeeding)
  10. Reward desired behaviors

3 Differences:

The differences between leaders and manipulators include authenticity, transparency, and generosity.


Leaders love; manipulators hate. If love is seeking the highest good of others, doing what you love establishes authenticity.

Love the value you bring to others. Love your organizational mission and vision.

Leaders that love are authentic; leaders that hate, manipulate.


Manipulators lurk in the shadows with secret agendas while leaders walk in the light. Leaders are open and honest.

Recently a friend of mine explained that I made another person uncomfortable. I was doing what I love to do, asking questions. My friend explained that I hadn’t laid the ground work to ask the questions I was asking.

Transparent correction establishes trust.


Manipulators serve themselves at the expense of others. They maneuver and manipulate to benefit themselves.

Manipulators make life easy for themselves and hard for others.

On the other hand, leaders serve others. They leverage their own skills and the skills of others for the benefit of all stakeholders.


There’s a thin line between manipulation and leadership. Love, transparency, and generosity determine on which side of the line you stand.

What shared tactics do manipulators and leaders employ?

What other qualities distinguish leaders and manipulators?