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Cold Leaders Have a 1-in-2000 Chance to Make it to the Top 25%

I’m still grappling with the realization that kindness/warmth is inconvenient. I’d be kind if I had the time.

Thankfully, when I work with people or organizations, they are my agenda. But what if you’re not on my agenda?


Warm and competent:

Change your thinking if you believe gunslinger-leaders get to the top.

“If you’re seen as low-warmth, you have something like a 1-in-2000 chance to make the top quartile of effectiveness as a leader.” (1) Zenger & Folkman

Don’t sacrifice warmth on the altar of competence.

The first thing teams need to know is, are you friend or foe. Do you intend harm or help?

The second thing teams need to know is, are you competent?

Leaders worry too much about competence and not enough about warmth.

Two questions that determine warmth:

  1. What is your intent?
  2. Are you able to act on your intentions?

Trustworthy leaders are warm and competent.

If you must choose between warmth and competence to build trust, choose warmth. That’s not to say that incompetent leaders are trustworthy. It is to say that we are quicker to trust warm leaders.

Adam Waytz, “Warmth really predominates judgments of trustworthiness.” (2)

The seven practices of warmth:

  1. Help others reach their goals. This assumes you know the goals of others.
  2. Display optimism, but don’t minimize challenges.
  3. Follow through. Leaders who don’t follow through are seen as uncaring.
  4. Maximize the strengths of others through coaching and mentoring.
  5. Challenge people to reach high and support them on the way. Low standards aren’t warm or inspirational.
  6. Explain an intention, seek feedback, and change. “I’m working to display optimism. What am I doing that displays optimism? How might I improve?”
  7. Maintain a forward-facing posture. Don’t ignore the past. Just focus on the future.

What concerns you about displaying warmth?

How might leaders display warmth?


  1. I’m the Boss! Why Should I Care if you Like Me?
  2. Measuring Trust Through Competence or Warmth
  3. Susan Fiske – Youtube video  (not quoted.)
  4. The Effects of Status on Perceived Warmth and Competence (Not used in this post.)

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