Book Review: Connect, Then Lead
Should leaders be strong or warm?
Some of us have the idea that leaders have to be strong, although research shows that people judged to be competent but lacking in warmth often elicit resentment in others. On the other hand, people judged as warm but incompetent tend to elicit pity. Based on research, we know that warmth and strength are the most influential traits for social judgment. Therefore leaders must be aware of the risks when emphasizing one trait more than the other.
Is it better to be loved or feared?
Machiavelli stated 500 years ago that one should wish to be both, but because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved. Now, behavioral research shows that when we judge others, we start by looking at two characteristics: how lovable they are and how fearsome they are. These two are described as the two primary dimensions of social judgment and are important because they underlie our emotional and behavioral reactions to other people, groups, and even brands and companies.
When strength comes first
Most of us work hard to demonstrate our competence. We focus on demonstrating that we’re up to the job by being the first to come up with innovative ideas, tackle challenges, work overtime, etc. We don’t feel the need to prove that we’re trustworthy, because we’re sure of our own intentions. All this despite the fact that evidence of trustworthiness is the first thing we look for in others.
Most leaders today also tend to emphasize their strength. This is despite the fact that when projecting strength before establishing trust, you run the risk of eliciting fear, and along with it a host of dysfunctional behaviors.
When warmth comes first
Research shows that when making judgments about others, people consistently pick up on warmth faster than on competence. Behavioral economists have shown that judgments of trustworthiness generally lead to significantly higher economic gains. It seems that in management settings, trust can increase sharing, openness, fluidity and cooperation. To summarize: a growing body of research suggests that the way to influence, is to begin with warmth.
Why warmth trumps strength
The primacy of warmth is based on the importance of connecting with people before trying to lead them:
– The need to affiliate – we all have a need to be included, to feel a sense of belonging.
– Us versus them – we want to be part of the group.
– The desire to be understood – we desire to be heard and seen.
As a leader, you want to be the aspirational member of the group, including all members, and consciously and consistently make the effort to imagine walking in the shoes of the people you are leading.
The Happy Warrior
Robert Josephs (Texas University) states that the most effective leaders have a unique physiological profile, with relatively high testosterone and relatively low cortisol. Knowing that the neuropeptide oxytocin has been linked to our ability to form human attachments and to feel and express warmth; and that feelings of strength and power have close ties with testosterone and cortisol – we can conclude that leaders gain influence when combining warmth and strength.
Such leaders face troubles without being troubled, and are able to influence during a crisis. They are viewed as “Happy Warriors” because they reassure people that whatever challenges they are facing, things will work out in the end. We trust these people; we listen to them.
Get your warmth-strength dynamic right if you want to effectively lead others. It’s difficult but mutually reinforcing because earning trust and appreciation around you or feeling in command of a situation feels good. Doing both lets you influence people more effectively.
Try and become that Happy Warrior.
[spacer style="1" icon="none" color="000000"]
Info on Authors:
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, uses experimental methods to investigate how people judge each other and themselves.
Matthew Kohut and John Neffinger are the founding partners of KNP and the authors of Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities that Make Us Influential.