The Warm And Powerful Leader: Part One.

Written by David Pullan

The Warm And Powerful Leader: Part One.

I shared this photograph on Linkedin earlier in the week and the reaction to it has prompted this blog. In fact it will prompt two blogs, but I suppose the ‘part one’ gave that away.


What I want to say first and foremost is that I see leadership as a mindset rather than a job title. 


Benjamin Zander wrote wonderfully in ‘The Art of Possibility: Practices in Leadership, Relationship and Passion’ (Penguin 2006) about how an orchestra can be led from any chair. 


I believe that what is true for an orchestra is true for any team. 


Any team member can take their role as a leader depending on context and timing. Sometimes it will mean leading action and sometimes will mean leading thought; but there will be a time when you need to step up to engage and motivate.


So what does warmth and power have to do with this?


Well I think that if you handle both of these in the right way and in the right order you will go a long way to making yourself into the leader who makes others feel important. This will lead in turn to a happy and motivated team.


Over the last week I’ve been reading Amy Cuddy’s recent release ‘Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self To Your Biggest Challenges’ (Orion 2016).


In it she refers to two elements that we are hardwired to assess immediately when we are in any interaction with another person.


The first is trust, or what I would refer to as warmth. This is the question that we all ask ourselves, ‘Do I feel safe with this person and do I feel as if they have taken my views into account?’


The second is competence, or what I would refer to in a leadership context as power.


This is an interesting one as there are two sorts of power.

  • Social Power: the ability to influence and/or control others.
  • Personal Power: the ability to stand with pride and conviction behind your feelings, viewpoint and beliefs. 

Now Cuddy makes a very interesting point that is backed up by her psychological research.


As human beings we judge trust/warmth first, and then we judge competence/power.


We want to know that someone is a Loveable Expert.


However the first thing that we instinctively try to project when we meet people, especially in a business context, is our competence/power. Then, and only then, do we show our trust/warmth, assuming we haven’t dismissed it as an unimportant ‘soft skill’ and left it withering by the wayside. 


In this scenario we run the risk of being seen as an Expert Jerk. We also risk losing our team and having to resort to coercion as our sole means of social power.


So what’s the answer?


What I am suggesting is that by focussing initially on warmth you will make deep connections with your teams and make them feel important. After that you can think about demonstrating your personal power by speaking with pride and conviction about your feelings, viewpoints and beliefs. This in turn will lead to healthy social power that is built on people wanting to follow you rather than doing it begrudgingly.


Now I have no doubt that the challenge will be that this all depends on context, and you may well be right.


Next week I am going to write about some different contexts and four roles of the leader.


For this week I would like you to think of ways that you can demonstrate warmth towards your team mates no matter what position you hold within that team. Then think about how you can show your personal power by voicing your viewpoint clearly and with conviction.


Do it in this order and I truly believe you will be on the road to being the Loveable Expert: a warm and powerful leader who makes the team feel important.


  • W B Yeats

    'Think like a wise man, but communicate in the language of the people.'