Warmth and competence | MBA Learnings

Current student Rohan Rajiv is blogging once a week about important lessons he is learning at Kellogg. Read more of his posts.

We discussed the tension between “warmth and competence” in the first week of classes at school.

The HBR article that the chart below appears in has an apt title – “Connect, then Lead.” The thesis is: start with warmth and prioritize demonstrating warmth over competence. High warmth and high competence inspires admiration, while low warmth and high competence inspires envy and other negative emotions.

HBR_Warmth_competence
Source: HBR (https://hbr.org/2013/07/connect-then-lead)

Academics have used this concept in various ways to show how various cultural/demographic/occupational groups are perceived in various parts of the world. As usual, I’m going to gloss over all that and focus on the implications for you and me.

I’ve been retrospectively examining how I’ve been doing on warmth vs. competence. And I’ve found that I’ve failed a lot more than I’ve succeeded.

As you’ve probably realized, the point here is not “admiration.” Being warm is just the right thing to do in most cases. However, I’ve realized I fail at this simply because behaving this way isn’t just a matter of wanting to. The fakers might disagree, but there’s always a fake-your-way-to solution to most problems in the short run. In the long run, I believe getting to warmth is a journey that accurately represents our progress in our journey to true self confidence.

My thesis is that it takes true self confidence to begin with warmth. Observing myself, I see a clear trend – I become myself as time passes in an interaction. However, in the early stages (e.g. the first 10 minutes), I subconsciously choose to lead with competence. That’s definitely because leading with competence placates my insecurities and makes me feel at ease. As momentum builds and a sense of ease builds up, I get over those insecurities and move into the confidence zone. Sometimes it only takes a minute to make this switch. Other times, it takes up to ten. But the pattern is there to see.

The only good piece of progress I can report is that I am becoming increasingly aware of it. And as I become aware of it, I find that it becomes easier to get to that state of ease.

Rohan Rajiv just completed his first year in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year Program. Prior to Kellogg he worked at a-connect serving clients on consulting projects across 14 countries in Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. He blogs a learning every day, including his MBA Learnings series, on www.ALearningaDay.com.

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