leadershipLeadership is something that entrepreneurs and managers have to develop continually. Perhaps some people are born with qualities that can make them natural influencers. But, most people have to build leadership skills to have their teams follow them.

If you’re a manager or business owner, the chances are that you’ve probably sat at a meeting where you wanted to influence people. As a result, maybe you’ve thought about a great new idea and you want workers to buy into it. You want them to be more motivated to work harder. Or, perhaps you’re business has merged with another company and you have to join companies with different values together. If you’re a worker, maybe you’d like to ask your boss for a raise. All of these situations involve influencing someone else or a group of people. Each presents a great opportunity to develop leadership.

To learn how to improve your leadership skills, a professional you should look to is a hostage negotiator. That is to say, they have a lot to teach us all about being a good influencer. Influencing people is the essential quality of a leader. So, think of it. When a hostage negotiator is on the job, that person is trying to influence the hostage takers. He or she wants to influence the hostage-takers into letting everyone go free with no one being hurt or killed. That makes these people excellent leaders. So, how do hostage negotiators influence people?

Hostage negotiators hone their active listening leadership skills

One of the essential traits of trained hostage negotiators is their ability to be active listeners. It means that they set out from the start to understand the other person. Humans have to connect with others, and that includes in a hostage situation. When hostage negotiators set about their work, they do everything to make a human connection with the hostage takers. It’s important to remember that you can’t influence anyone if there’s no common ground. That idea holds true in any leadership situation.

When hostage negotiators do active listening, there are several activities they’ll be doing. For instance, they’ll ask open-ended questions, which prevent yes or no answers. They’ll also seek to replicate what they’re hearing from the hostage takers. For example, they will acknowledge that the hostage taker on the phone is angry or upset. The hostage negotiator will also restate what he or she is hearing from the hostage takers. These techniques will help the negotiator to reduce the negative emotions, builds trust, and shows understanding.

Leaders and hostage negotiators provide reasons

Want to know another trick of hostage negotiators? They provide ideas for what’s happening. Let’s say that the hostage takers are seeking to get $1 million in one hour. Hostage negotiators will explain the reason why that’s not possible. In fact, one hostage negotiator says that by giving reasons, even ones that might not make sense works. Leadership means focusing on giving people reasons why people should follow.

Here’s a real-life example. No one likes waiting on lines. But, in one study when the person who jumped in front of others on a line gave a reason, even one that didn’t make sense, it produced a positive response. For instance, when the person said they were in a hurry, 92 percent of the time they could get ahead of other people. Yet, when the person in the study politely asked if they could go in front of others, only 32 percent of people allowed that to happen.

Hostage negotiators and care to dare

Finally, an approach taken by another hostage negotiator focused on leadership development is “care to dare.” The way he explains it is that it has two elements. The first part focuses on the ability of the leader to have people feel safe and secure. If you recall in the Hollywood movies, hostage negotiators are always speaking about the welfare of the hostages and also the hostage takers.

The second part of the care to dare approach is connecting with people on a shared goal. Focusing on the shared objective encourages people to work together and move in the same direction. As Kohlrieser explained, Richard Branson did this when Virgin bought Northern Rock, which provided financial services. Branson wrote every employee a letter that was given to each person with a copy of his autobiography. He encouraged them to join with him in taking the company to the next level. He also visited with each person in the company after riding his motorcycle to each Northern Rock branch.

In conclusion, managers who want to become leaders have to become masters at influence. Taking a few lessons from hostage negotiators, who have life and death challenges for influencing, will go a long way toward helping you develop your leadership skills.