What do Infants have to do with Leadership?
Everything! Leaders need followers to be labeled a leader. Without followers there is no leader. People make up groups and groups are formed with individuals that have similar characteristics. Groups need leaders and understanding the core unconscious formation of groups is essential for instilling an appropriate leadership style.
Did you see 60 minutes? Here is the video: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50135408n
A study was conducted at Yale University on infants, and 87% of the time, infants choose others that had similar interests. This strongly suggests that the in-group vs. out-group phenomenon is something that is in-born instead of learned. People are more likely to choose others with shared characteristics and this is an innate ability that is created at birth. This remarkable finding extends from infancy throughout the lifespan which provides concrete information as to why certain behaviors occur in society.
This independent reaction (single person) extends to an interdependent coalition (between 2 or more people) and then to the intergroup-level (between 2 or more whole groups). A few examples are: Finance department vs. Human Resources, Israel vs. Iran, Apple vs. Samsung, and the Giants vs. the Cowboys. Each group possesses similarities which is the basis for the in-group bond. The negative focus on the out-group is formed because of the opposition of characteristics and obvious differences. A few examples of differences are anything superficial, physical location, ethnicity, religion, and even intellectual discipline.
In Psychology, there is a phenomenon called self-fulfilling prophecy where a positive or negative belief will come true through positive feedback concerning that belief. For example, Amanda believes she is not a good leader, she decides not to attend a leadership seminar because she believes that she will not be able to implement the strategies effectively, and her team revolts because she failed to learn and apply the essential skills in the seminar that would have led to success. Her beliefs became reality through a self-fulfilling prophecy.
How does this apply to leadership in society?
To be frank, behavior is predictable and groups form in a predictive cycle. Groups, who in nature, are formed from individuals with similar characteristics, need leaders and those leaders need to appeal to those shared characteristics and beliefs in order to gain followership from the majority. A primary function of persuasion is to find a common similarity and exploit the shared experience to create trust and comfort in order to make the sale. Leaders are selling their vision for the group’s success and leaders need to gain commitments from followers in order to be successful. A leader is only as good as the execution and commitment of their team. Understanding the cause of group behavior allows for an improved leadership response to crisis and the ability for team management will dramatically increase.
Furthermore, understanding the impact of this finding in infants and how it relates to our leadership behavior is optimum for identifying improper action as well as appropriate decision-making responses. During times of cognitive overload, even well-educated individuals, revert back to the automatic reactions when decision-making is demanded within a limited time. The sense of panic appears and choices are made in an automatic way in order to complete the task. This is a form of depending on intuition and instincts to make critical decisions. We tend to believe that these critical decisions made through instinct are based in education and are free of unconscious bias, but infants show us that our in-born behaviors have a stronger impact on our adult behavior more than we are ready to admit.
These senses and behaviors that we perceived as complex are actually in-born and predictable. This finding is a leadership tool for understanding others’ perspectives and for understanding how to improve two-way communications. Education allows us to fight these inner forces of nature and implement our own independent choice instead of providing an automatic response.
History is riddled with numerous incidents where decisions were made that baffle our minds today because we have been educated to understand a better process for decision-making and human compassion.
Another study in the 60 minutes segment showed that fairness and equality was non-existent before the age of nine and after nine, people started to become fair and even generous, which shows that, fairness and equality are learned through education and culture. Education is the ultimate equalizer and the foundation for a better tomorrow.
Keith Lawrence Miller, M.A., PCC, BCC, CPRW
Elite Pro Coach | Ivy League Resumes
ICF Certified & Credentialed Coach (PCC) | Board Certified Coach (BCC)
M.A. Columbia University | Organizational Psychologist
(855) My-Pro-Coach | Skype (718) 717-2820
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