Aesop’s fable tells us that while the winter wind tries to use force to blow off the traveler’s coat, the summer sun simply shines and the warmth it exudes inspires the traveler to remove his own coat.

Persuasion is More Powerful than Force

Holacracy® Practitioner’s Guide

Chris Cowan, EdD., MDiv.
2 min readNov 6, 2022


Strictly speaking, “Holacracy” is just a set of rules without any explicit principles, but of course philosophical principles impact which rules are included and how they are defined. Here’s one you should know…

Persuasion is more powerful than force.

It’s hard to make someone do something they don’t want to do. Like making a child clean their room or eat their vegetables, you have limited tools at your disposal. Regardless of the specifics, I think it’s worth distinguishing two broad strategies: 1) using coercion or force, and 2) using influence or persuasion. Especially because the distinction has non-obvious implications.

The problem with force, or the threat of force (i.e. coercion) is that, at best, you get surface-level compliance. At worst, you get outright rebellion. But there’s no mistaking that, in a pinch, force can get things done. So, it’s like a dirty fuel; it can be exceptionally effective, but leaves a nasty residue.

On the other hand, persuasion is clean energy. It’s much more sustainable and therefore much more powerful, but it requires significantly more investment. You have to be twice as patient. You have to be twice as creative. You have to take on the responsibility of stewarding your own tensions, not trying to get others to solve them for you.

But is it worth it? Yes, when you take the long view.

Because the overall impact of that continual investment isn’t just about making others feel better (though it will do that). It also leads to better outcomes. Ones that you couldn’t have even imagined.

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Chris Cowan, EdD., MDiv.

I write about self-management, leadership, and Holacracy®