Masters in the apprentice shops of the Middle Ages, and bosses walking the factory floors at the turn of the last century, weren’t known for their warmth. In those environments, workers counted themselves lucky to be paid. Today, we all expect to find meaning in our work and in the workplace. That goal can be fulfilled if we feel that our managers genuinely care about us as individuals.
Loran Nordgren, an associate professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School, tracks leadership qualities, and warmth, in particular. He's concerned that warmth is lacking in many organizations. Nordgren is not talking about walking around the office with a fake smile pasted on your face. True warmth is about taking the time to learn more about the people who work for you and to try to build relationships.
There’s a fine line between showing warmth and trying too hard to get people to like you. You don’t want people to think you’re overcompensating because you feel inadequate, or because you’re gunning for the next promotion.
Not everyone is gifted with a naturally warm personality. As a leader, you should know that your team will judge you on competence and warmth. Nordren cites the Zenger Folkman study when he says, “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.”
It’s up to you to prove you possess both warmth and competence as a leader. For some people, taking on a particularly difficult assignment and completing it on time and on budget demonstrates competence. The warmth factor may be more of a challenge. Not everyone is gifted with a naturally warm personality. If you struggle with this part of your job, start by consistently allocating time for others on a daily basis. The effort may not feel natural or come easily, but showing people you care, and that you remember the little details of their personal lives means a lot.