Career Trends: Leadership Is All About Decoding Human Behaviour.

7 min read

Edition: March 23, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

Leaders spend a lot of time understanding and interpreting human behaviour. (Image Credit: Canva)

Leadership is the ability to impact and influence others. Many years ago, I (the author) had the opportunity to shadow the CEO of a major technology company for one day. Walking through the hallways of his company, hearing him interact on phone calls and watching him tackle projects and challenges was like nothing I had ever seen before.

The key was how he decoded human behaviour.

Every single one of his actions was based on how humans work. Throughout the day, he would explain the cause behind the behaviour that we had just witnessed.

Since then, I have studied hundreds of leaders like him, looking for patterns.  

Here are some science-backed tips to ace your leadership skills:

#1: Go for the small yes.

  • Leaders are extremely adept at getting people to buy into ideas — even ones they might not normally say yes to.
  • Two researchers, Jonathan Freedman and Scott Fraser, tested how do we get people to do something, they went door-to-door asking people if they would put up a large sign on their front lawn that said “Drive Carefully.” Only 20% of the people obliged.
  • For a smaller three-inch sign saying “Drive Carefully” in their window, many more people said yes.
  • Three weeks later they asked those same people to put up the much bigger sign in their yard and 76% of the people agreed this time.
  • This study is an example of how asking for a small request first will help you get a ‘yes’ to a bigger request later.

#2: Embrace the Pygmalion Effect.

  • To motivate people around you, don’t offer a bonus, instead break out the compliments.
  • A study by Professor Norihiro Sadato and his associates focusing on social rewards found that receiving praise – not cash – was the best way to motivate participants.
  • The researchers discovered that social rewards such as praise are registered in the same part of the brain as when rewarded with money.
  • This is called the Pygmalion Effect.

#3: Use a blend of logic, emotion and intuition.

  • People at Quantified Communications analysed the communication patterns of global leaders to see if they communicate differently.
  • To measure persuasion, they analysed three distinct tactics: logic, intuition and emotion.
  • Logic includes language that establishes reason, proof, and insight–citing research and statistics to support main arguments.
  • Intuition establishes credibility through language that convinces audiences to see the speaker as an expert.
  • Emotion appeals to our hearts that help audiences become personally invested in the message 
  • It was found that leaders used a blend of all three.

#4: Choose the right seat at the table.

  • Leaders know how important body language and spacing is for perception.
  • How and where we sit affects our interactions.
  • In a conference room you might want to sit at the head of the table so as to address everyone in the room
  • But not all leaders want to sit in the most powerful seat all the time.
  • If you are going into a room to watch someone else present, negotiate or be seen you would want to pick a different seat.

#5: Avoid empty calorie time.

  • Empty calorie time—when we waste our time doing nothing, but still use valuable brain energy.
  • According to one study, when we mind-wander, our brain can’t recuperate and is stuck in limbo.
  • Leaders are judicious with their mental energy, if they want to take a break, they exercise, meditate, do yoga or creative activities, which boosts brain activity.
  • As more and more devices, games and social media networks enter into our lives, we have to protect our time.

#6: Ask behavioural questions.

  • It’s often said that leaders ask great questions that crack people open. This is a concept called Behavioural Interviewing.
  • Behavioural interview questions are designed to reveal the true nature of a candidate’s personality, motivations and values.
  • The right questions can unlock someone’s personality.

#7: Set BIG goals.

  • According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, being more ambitious actually makes you happier.
  • Those who set high goals are more satisfied than their counterparts with lower expectations.
  • Even if we lose, we feel like we gave it our best try, which is fulfilling in a different way.

#8: Abandon revenge. It’s not worth it.

  • Study after study has found that when we make business or life decisions based upon revenge, we only end up losing money or having more difficulty ourselves.
  • Get perspective: Think of bigger problems to get your situation into perspective.
  • Write it down: Expressive writing about your anger and resentment have been shown to eliminate these feelings entirely.

#9: Embody the body language of leaders.

  • Leaders have a very specific set of nonverbal behaviours that signal their confidence.
  • Leaders embrace stillness as it is perceived as more powerful and in control.
  • If you want to signal confidence and power, try not to fidget, pace or hop.
  • Be in control of your nonverbal communication, just like you can be in control of a project or task.
  • Leaders know the importance of touch — they go in for a firm handshake as a sign of assertiveness.

#10: Invest in communication skills.

  • In our hyper-connected world, leaders have to be best-in-class communicators.
  • They have to do this in a variety of settings and across countless channels, spending 75 to 80% of their working hours communicating.
  • A lot of consumers say their perception of a CEO affects their opinion of the company as a whole.
  • Therefore, leaders need to serve as role models for stellar executive communication. 

#11: Indulge in instructional self-talk.

  • The most effective kind of self-talk is called “instructional self-talk.”
  • Instructional self-talk is the internal commentary that happens while we are trying to complete a challenging activity or task.
  • Researchers believe it helps us battle distractions and keeps us logical.

#12: Have a success-oriented attitude.

  • In 1997, Gary McPherson decided to study the pattern and traits successful musician shared.
  • He asked the participants before they selected their instrument: “How long do you think you will play the instrument you choose?”
  • This provided a clue indicating which students would be successful and which wouldn’t.
  • If they thought they would play the instrument permanently, they did better. If only temporarily, they did not play as well.
  • Their success was all about their attitude.
  • We do not need any inherent skills to be good at what we do. Our minds and skill set will grow with us as we stick to our goals.

#13: Drive with your core ideology.

  • A key characteristic setting visionary companies apart from their competition is that they have a core ideology
  • It drives almost every decision they make.
  • You can think of a core ideology like a vision statement except it’s much more actionable.
  • It’s your values and the reasons why you do what you do; it’s what motivates you to keep going in hard times and embodies the factors you think about when making life’s most important decisions.

#14: Embrace happiness now.

  • Success doesn’t bring happiness. Happiness brings success.
  • The research on happiness is clear: if we want to be more successful, we should focus on happiness.
  • You may have frequently thought, “When I achieve , I will be happy.” or “After I get , then I’ll be happy.” However this doesn’t work.
  • Leaders are happier as they don’t put happiness second.
  • They understand that if they are happier, the people around them will be happier.

Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

Career Trends: Computer Science Jobs Without Coding

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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