“Setting the Emotional Thermostat”

All of us have heard, and many of us may have used, the phrase, “I’d rather be respected than liked.” Some like its sterner cousin, “I’d rather be feared than liked.”  Leaders use these aphorisms to mean  that they care about their effectiveness above all else.  Recent research indicates they are built on a fallacy.

“Research by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman drives this point home: In a study of 51,836 leaders, only 27 of them 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.”
– Amy J.C. Cuddy and others from the Harvard Business Review, July-August, 2013

In the words of my pal and teaching partner Pat Bradley, “Leaders set the emotional thermostat in the workplace.” Where a leader sets the thermostat exerts tremendous  influence on an organization’s effectiveness.  In public safety we tend to discount emotion. But we do so at our peril. Recent neuroscientific research shows that emotion is the most important factor in decision-making; in this case whether subordinates choose to follow the moral and strategic direction of he leader.

Read another excerpt from Cuddy et al.

“A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence—and to lead—is to begin with warmth. Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas. Even a few small nonverbal signals—a nod, a smile, an open gesture—can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns. Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.”


About stephenomeara

My name is Jim Jordan. I have had the privilege of working with the Boston Police Department and hundreds more departments over my nearly 30-year career in police administration and city government. I am now teaching and consulting independently at www.sergeantsleadership.org. I have learned the best of what I know from the thousands of smart, dedicated and ethical police personnel and scholars who have guided me along the way. My address is named for the great Reform commissioner of the Boston Police at the turn of the 20th century. Commissioner O'Meara died just a short while before the Strike in 1919. He was replaced by a vicious puppet (of Gov. Coolidge) named Edwin U. Curtis. Had O'Meara lived events may have turned out quite differently.
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