A Kinder, Gentler Leadership
Women best men when it comes to effective leadership. So says the third annual Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor, a survey that tracks responses from more than 6,500 individuals around the world, examining perceptions of leaders in business, politics, community, non-profit, and organized labor organizations.
Specifically, female leaders around the world topped their male counterparts in four out of seven metrics of effective leadership: “leading by example,” “communicating in an open and transparent way,” “admitting mistakes,” and “bringing out the best in others.” A fifth metric—“handling controversial issues or crises calmly and confidently”—placed males and females near even.
Beyond gender distinctions, the data has important takeaways for all leaders. Those who are respectful and reinforcing, who are willing to admit mistakes, and who openly lead by example will blaze a path to the future. “It’s not about a value judgment on either gender, it’s simply saying what matters to the world now is systematically being displayed more by female leaders than male leaders,” said Rod Cartwright, director of Ketchum’s Global Corporate & Public Affairs Practice.
Please share your thoughts. Do you admire leaders (male or female) who exemplify the traits Ketchum respondents identified? Do you consider yourself such a leader? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
The "Grammar" of Helping
Want to motivate your kids to help out? Try defining them as “helpers.” So says a new study in the journal Child Development. Experimenters divided 100 preschoolers into two groups. Half got a talk about helping; the others heard about being helpers. While the children were playing, those who got the talk about being helpers dropped their toys to help 20 percent more often.
The difference is nuanced, but important. When you want to reinforce a moral trait (like being a “helper” or “giver”) use nouns—not verbs! Being called a helper makes kids feel they're embodying a virtue, says Christopher Bryan, one of the psychologists behind the study. Conversely, if you want to reinforce skill-based behavior it’s best to focus on specific detailed actions and effort. (As we mentioned in a previous Communication Capsule, rather than offering vague “Good job” kudos to kids, we reinforce their hard work and the specific activities that helped them achieve success: "Wow, how did you do that? Could you show me how to do that?")
By the way, the moral motivation phenomenon isn't unique to kids. In a previous study, Bryan found that asking grown-ups, "How important is it to you to be a voter?" was more likely to get them to the polls than asking them about the importance of voting.
We want to hear! What happens when you motivate kids, or adults, by using virtue-based nouns? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
To Connect, Be Vulnerable
We so often present idealized versions of ourselves to others. If we feel disappointment, envy, or anxiety, we don’t want to let on. But research shows that sharing our vulnerabilities is actually of immense value.
Consider this study: Arthur Aron, director of the Interpersonal Relationships Lab at Stony Brook University, paired students who were strangers and gave them 45 minutes to ask each other a series of questions. Half were given superficial questions (e.g., a favorite holiday or TV show), the other half’s questions gradually became deeper (e.g. the role of love in their lives, the last time they cried in front of someone else, whose death would impact them most). Afterward, Aron’s team asked the participants to rate how close they felt to their partner. Pairs from the second group formed much deeper bonds. Some started lasting friendships; some perceived their connection to their study partner as one of the strongest in their lives.
So, contrary to what we may believe, presenting a “totally together” version of ourselves actually separates us from others. We may fear that if people find out “who we really are”, they’ll distance themselves. In fact, our authenticity and vulnerability—our sheer humanity—breaks down barriers.
Please share your experience: When has sharing vulnerability resulted in a stronger connection? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.
Look Up! Your Eyes Mesmerize
We hope this week’s Communication Capsule gives you a boost. Your feedback on our Forum is welcomed and valued.
Here’s looking at you! When someone makes eye contact, they are perceived as more connected, as well as more trustworthy and likeable. We’ve long discussed the value of eye contact, and now it turns out that this basic mode of communication is so powerful it even has an impact on our relationship with “brand mascots.”
In a study published last month in the journal Environment and Behavior, researchers at Cornell manipulated the gaze of the cartoon rabbit on Trix cereal boxes and found that adults were more likely to choose Trix over competing brands if the rabbit was looking at them rather than away. Researchers also found that the eyes of characters on boxes of cereal marketed to kids were directed downward—to meet the upturned gaze of little tykes in grocery aisles.
If marketers know how to invoke the power of eye contact, we should all be conscious of its impact. Eye contact activates the parts of the brain that help us to more acutely and accurately process another person’s feelings and intentions. It gives us, as The New York Times put it, “a cognitive jump start.”
So, look up from those mobile devices and connect! You will not only be perceived as more aware and empathic—you actually will be.
Please share your experience: When you consciously make an effort to increase eye contact, what do you notice about the outcome? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.