Some Helpful Leadership Science



In  my previous post titled Why It’s Best if Leaders Don’t Know Everything I promised to share with you the scientific reasons that a strong but humble approach to leadership is proven to bring the desired result, namely to convince others to cooperate with you in accomplishing a mission or task.

Let’s begin by clarifying my use of two words; strong and tough. I know they are different because they are spelled differently, so what other difference is there?

Tough is rough. It is unrefined, it is inconsiderate and demanding. It is often rooted in pride and is exemplified by the person who is determined to push or force compliance with his wishes. Tough says “You’ll do it because I’m in charge and I say you’ll do it.” The toughness of the tough leader is very often a mask that covers his or her insecurities or lack of confidence. Modern science teaches us that the tough approach inhibits success because of this approach’s unavoidable intimidation factor.

Since the tough leader asserts the power of his rank or position, his or her authority to demand compliance, most followers will only appear to take him or her seriously. That means that there will be unfavorable consequences for an inability to perform, which elevates stress as the result of the worker’s body producing the hormone, cortisol.

Cortisol is a stress hormone, produced by the adrenal gland which signals danger and induces the fight or flight response. Once cortisol is released into the bloodstream it remains for hours after the danger has passed. Any continued sight or sound related to the cause of the adrenal danger signal, reinforces the adrenal response and compounds the problem. This physiological response in your workers’ bodies compels them to be tuned in to danger, in order to protect/defend themselves. The person who is in “survival mode” has relegated the task at hand to a secondary priority. His production will be impaired, the tough leader will not be happy, and tough will get tougher, the workers’ success rate will decline further and it won’t stop declining until a long time after the threat/danger has passed. This is why tough leaders can fire people, hire new workers and still get the same result in the end. Followers who are in fear of danger cannot produce as well as they can when they are relaxed. Through this lasting adrenal response, it is even possible that the tough leader has a negative impact on a worker’s family and their lives. Leadership carries a sobering responsibility.

Now let’s look at strong. Strong is “cool, calm and collected.” The strong leader is exemplified by his or her confidence and ability and willingness, to encourage workers/followers. The strong leader understands that people are human, and that the paycheck is not the prime motivating factor for most people. A strong leader is confident in his people’s willingness to follow because most are motivated to be successful in their jobs. Successful performance makes them feel good. For most the paycheck is a by-product. The strong leader has confidence in his ability to lead because he or she has put in the personal time to study his craft, leadership and people. Strong leaders get along with their people, without compromising the quality and quantity of their team’s output, or unduly fraternizing with followers. He or she is adept at being accessible, compassionate and respectful without becoming just “one of the gang.”

What modern science teaches us about the strong approach to leadership is that when a person does not perceive danger, but perceives, respect, acceptance and confidence in him or her emanating towards them from their leader, their bodies release the endorphins and activates the neurotransmitter dopamine.

Endorphins are what give runners that euphoric sensation when they have pushed their bodies out of their comfort zones and get into the rhythm of running.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that causes the release of other substances in the body, including oxytocin, which is known as the love hormone. For our professional purposes here, love is not synonymous with intimacy. I am talking about the “love your neighbor as yourself” kind of love, even though oxytocin is also involved in intimacy.

You can probably see where this is going. When a person feels safe, is emotionally comfortable, even in uncomfortable physical circumstances, when he or she feels respected and valuable, they are relaxed and able to perform at their peak because they don’t feel a need to protect themselves against a threat. When they perform at their peak, they are primed to stretch a little farther. They are ready to go beyond average or acceptable. This is good for everyone’s “bottom line.”

Most of the time, problem workers are a symptom of problem leaders. There are exceptions to almost every rule, but the wise leader will examine him or herself before determining that the problem with his or her people is those people, or “that person.”

If you have a leadership problem you would like some help with, leave a comment below, or if privacy is a concern, use my contact form below to send me an email. I am here to help, strengthen and encourage you. (“I love it when a plan comes together” – George Peppard in the A Team).



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