In studies by Cameron Anderson of UC Berkeley published in the Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, researchers have come up with some interesting insights into how and why some people take the lead in newly formed groups. In short, the people who lead are those who take the lead. But we can also find some deeper lessons in leadership in the details of the experiments.
When researchers assigned subjects to group exercises, the men and women who emerged as group leaders were those the group perceived as most competent. Makes sense. If you’re going to be led, you want to be led by someone who can deliver the results you want. In a pinch or under the time constraints of a research exercise, that would be the person who exudes the most confidence.
More specifically, however, the researchers found that people see confidence in people who speak up first and talk the most. Members of the experimental groups as well as outside observers judged the most vocal as more intelligent, dependable, and self-disciplined. Conversely those who spoke up less and interacted less were rated more conventional and less creative.
Speaking up translates as confidence. And why not? It takes courage to speak to a group of strangers. Naturally, people—especially those who are afraid to speak up—perceive the first to speak as confident, willing to step up and take initiative. The research has also found that members of groups almost always get behind the first solution offered to problems posed by the group. Furthermore, subsequent ideas were almost always dismissed, even when they were actually better.
Fortunately, if after a lot of talking, people who are free with words of little content eventually lose their aura of confidence as well as their status as leader. That’s why organizational leadership requires more than just the initial impulse to speak up.
The impulse to speak up will help give you the Courage to Bring it Up! Talk it Up! Wrap it Up! and Follow it Up! The more you do so, the more your Courage will grow as you add Candor, Connection, Commitment and the Six Leadership Competencies.
Your initial impulse to speak up will get you only so far unless you use that drive to motivate continuous education, constant improvement, regular reflection, and periodic objective reassessment of your leadership competencies backed up by a consistent program of intimate leadership coaching.
Consider developing your leadership skills alongside other leaders at our next CoachQuest Leader-as-Coach Workshop.