Is it better to be feared, or loved?
Well, what do you choose?
“It may be answered that one should wish to be both,” Machiavelli says
, “but because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved.”
How about a 2nd poll to test the “let’s be honest here” waters?
Say you meet a new potential customer, a potential employer, or anyone with whom you want to establish a good business relationship, what’s your game plan, set out to:
A) Show that you’re experienced, skilled, capable, and credible, or
B) Show that you’re trustworthy and likable?
Is that wrong?
Not necessarily - albeit it might not be as effective as you may assume.
“Most leaders today tend to emphasize their strength, competence, and credentials in the workplace, but that is exactly the wrong approach. Leaders who project strength before establishing trust run the risk of eliciting fear, and along with it a host of dysfunctional behaviors. Fear can undermine cognitive potential, creativity, and problem solving, and cause employees to get stuck and even disengage,” according to Professor Amy Cuddy
Does the adage “you have got to show them who’s the boss” need to fly out the window?
The case is further made against Machiavelli’s simple recommendation, when we look at the Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman study
of 51,836 leaders on leadership effectiveness and likability. In this study, it came out that, only “27 of the leaders were rated in the bottom quartile in terms of likability and in the top quartile in terms of overall leadership effectiveness—in other words, the chances that a manager who is strongly disliked will be considered a good leader are only about one in 2,000.”
Which leads us back to the old quote from Zig Ziglar
: “If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”
Beyond the simple statement that power dynamics
are at play, when we are interacting with someone and determining how we will respond, we are gathering insights based on two questions:
- “What are this person’s intentions toward me?”
- “Is he or she capable of acting on those intentions?”
When we are making this assessment — especially of our leaders— we look first at two characteristics: how caring e.g. “lovable” ala Machiavelli (their warmth, communion, or trustworthiness) and how “fearsome” they are (their strength, competence, and ability to make things happen (agency). Researchers
agree that warmth and competence
account for 90% of the variance of positive or negative impressions
we form about people around us.
In turn, warmth and competence boil down to two more simple questions that we ask ourselves: Can I trust you
and Can I respect you
- People considered to be competent but missing warmth often trigger envy in others. Unfortunately, envy is an emotion that mixes respect and resentment: loved when you’re winning, subject to sharp criticism when caught in a mistake.
- On the other hand, people judged as warm but - unfortunately - incompetent, tend to elicit pity or much lower expectations to actually perform. While compassion moves us to help those we pity, the lack of respect often causes folks to neglect them in the long run.
The recommendation in a nutshell: only after you have shown that you are trustworthy
, can you best bring your depth and breadth of your talents to the table. Because then you are “in
Since warmth and competence are at the forefront for how we assess other people, we are often apprehensive of how that judgement
from others is going to play out for us. Will others trust me? Will others respect me?
This plays into how we enter into, and extend our trust into relationships; this plays out in terms of how we engage at work e.g. do we speak up and out, do we play it safe on a web meeting
and ask our questions per chat to another attendee?
This anticipation of being judged and not seen as worthy is anxiety-ridden
. Throw into the mix the social isolation
that come along side it, and we can get a clue in as to why it is so utterly important, as leaders, as team members, as people to stop and take the time to see how we are truly building trust, connecting, and exuding our warmth before digging into the nitty-gritties of our work. This is key to reinforcing the foundation so that they are less like the “Fear Factor”
and more like “Love Connection
As this seemingly decade-long 2020 comes to a close, it will be hard to remember all the things that happened, but how your co-workers
, your boss, your peers, your friends
, your loved ones
, made the time to show you how they trusted and respected you, will reverberate for years to come.