Taller on the outside than the inside

November 24, 2013

WWIt seems like there is some truth in the expression ‘fake it until you make it’. Really! Could standing like Superman or Wonder Woman actually make you feel and look more powerful? The answer appears to be yes. Expansive, open body postures increase testosterone, decrease stress and make people feel more in control. And here’s the interesting bit, in a selection situation, especially when candidates have to give presentations, holding a more ‘powerful’ posture increases the chances of getting hired by 20%. So strike a pose before going in to an interview (it would be a bit weird if you struck up your Superman or Wonder Woman position when you were actually in the room), and stand tall when delivering a presentation. It could make a big difference.

More info: http://pss.sagepub.com/content/21/10/1363.abstract

Wonder Woman. Created by a psychologist! Have a look at this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Moulton_Marston

Science of Persuasion (or how to get someone to do what you want them to do…)

December 7, 2012

Great animated video on the science (six universal principles) of persuasion, based on the research of Dr. Robert Cialdini, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing, Arizona State University.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFdCzN7RYbw&list=UU8IMseLCZx2BZe3thxHXnog&index=1&feature=plcp

The entrepreneurs of identity

March 19, 2011

As business psychologists we spend a great deal of time trying to identify leadership. And to help us there’s a mighty army of personality and leadership questionnaires, as well as numerous books that claim to pinpoint the ‘habits’ that distinguish successful leaders from the rest. In contrast there is little on the way in which leadership can grow from a leader’s role as part of a group.

Less I-ness, more we-ness

The group perspective on leadership, or the ‘social identity’ approach to organisational psychology, works on the premise that our sense of self isn’t fixed. It exists on a continuum that runs from self-interested personal identity (‘I-ness’) to group orientated social identity (‘we-ness’); with our position being determined by social context. What is more we tend to act on an individualistic basis when we compare ourselves to an ‘in-group’, such as one composed of our work colleagues; whereas when the comparison is with an ‘out-group’, such as a competitor, we are far more likely to act in a group-orientated manner.

Who are we?

It follows that if social rather than personal identity is better at explaining what we do in groups, then measures of the latter, such as personality questionnaires, are not going to be good predictors of behaviour.

In terms of leadership it also seems likely that a concentration on the individual isn’t the answer. If leadership is about group behaviour then it’s really about creating a shared identity that binds the group together. Thus true leadership is about helping to create, shape and sustain a sense of ‘who and what we are’.

What happened to my charisma?

Those that are masters at creating shared identity are also likely to be described as charismatic. However if charisma is dependent on the management of group identity, then if you lose your ability to shape this identity your charisma will evaporate – an effect that can be readily observed in the world of politics!

Overall then, perhaps there’s one expression that sums up social identity and leadership: great leaders are the entrepreneurs of identity. And what they do is to help us create our perception of who we are.

Note: The expression ‘entrepreneurs of identity’ is probably best attributed to Alex Haslam and Steve Reicher. If you’re interested in this area you might also like to read Alex Haslam’s book, Psychology in Organizations: The Social Identity Approach, published by Sage.

Picture credit: Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net

Leadershift: Is leadership DEAD?

June 15, 2010

I am always on the look out for new ideas in leadership and Emmanual Gobillot’s book strikes a chord. In Leadershift he provides a useful insight into four societal trends that are flipping leadership on its head. That’s the DEAD bit.

  • Demographic – we are now leading people we have little in common with, often from really different generations.
  • Expertise – this is coming from all over the place. Mass collaboration, crowdsourcing, you name it, it’s all up for grabs.
  • Attention – all that noise. It’s harder to get people’s attention and reasons for working, and ways of working, are changing.
  • Democracy – this is the big one. Leaders have little direct control over their resources, and the way we feel about organisations changes, routinely. God bless you BP!

I think we may need some new business models and to work out ways for organisations to create their own information space. The book is called: Leadershift: Reinventing Leadership for the Age of Mass Collaboration. Kogan Page (2009).


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