The High Cost of a Single Missing Leadership Trait
“The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” – Henry A. Kissinger
When you think about leaders you admire – whether it’s Moses or Miriam, the CEO of your organization or the president of your Board – you likely see in them several well-known and well-regarded leadership skills and attributes: vision, passion, confidence, strategic thinking, conflict management, results-orientation, integrity, decision-making and more.
These leadership traits make up a critical combination of competence, commitment and character – and hopefully, you demonstrate many of these yourself whether you hold a leadership title or not.
But there’s one more crucial leadership trait that, according to Harvard University business professor and social psychologist Ann Cuddy, can make all the difference between you and your organization being loved or loathed. And more importantly, it’s a trait that everyone in your organization who interfaces with customers, members, donors, or prospects needs to cultivate if they don’t have it already.
What’s in the secret leadership sauce?
The added ingredient associated with the most effective leaders of our organizations is Warmth. Warmth is the very first trait that people perceive about us, and based on that initial reading – whether we like it or not – people decide whether our intentions are positive or negative.
Warmth is considered more important and more influential than competence (our ability to do the job). And while the people with whom we work may forgive us for a breach in competence, studies show that “a single instance of negative-warmth behavior is likely to irredeemably categorize the perpetrator as a cold person.”
So what does that mean? It means that your front office staff member who gets things done but has a brusque tone is costing your organization credibility. It means that a supervisor who is brilliant at the technical aspects of her job but who is described as having an “edge” is costing you staff morale. It means that the fundraiser on your team whose numbers are good but who also rubs some donors and prospects the wrong way is costing you money.
It means that every single member of your organization needs to know that making people feel included, engaged, respected – and cared about – is a part of his or her job description.
Here are 10 ways to increase feelings of warmth among your team, in the organization, and with customers, members, donors, and prospects:
- Increase the number of agenda-free “casual conversations” you have.
- Give others your complete attention (no cell phones, emails, looking over their shoulders for someone more interesting, etc.).
- Be curious about other people’s work and non-work activities.
- Share your own personal and professional challenges with your colleagues.
- Demonstrate empathy for others’ challenges.
- Let rumors, gossip and bad news die at your desk.
- Be willing to apologize when you make a mistake or hurt someone’s feelings.
- Trust others and be trustworthy yourself.
- Use inviting body language, such as eye contact, smiling and nodding.
- Explain your intentions to others when making decisions or taking actions that affect them.
If you, your team and your leaders could use some help getting even warmer this summer, email us at email@example.com.