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Motivating Employees Through Warmth vs. Strength
Dec 11, 2018 - Joe White, Director of AEU LEAD

A dispute arose between the Wind and the Sun about who was the stronger of the two. They decided to settle the issue by seeing who could convince a passing traveler to take off his coat first.

The Wind blew with all his might, but the harder the Wind blew, the tighter the traveler held his coat. Then the Sun tried.  As the Sun rose higher and shined brighter, the traveler began to feel the gradually increasing warmth of his presence.  After a short time, he finally removed his coat.  The Sun was declared the winner.

This Aesop fable offers a timeless lesson in leadership.  As a front-line supervisor, it’s often easy to rely on your position to try and force or drive behaviors.  Like the wind, we often find ourselves pushing harder when performance gets behind or off track.  Like the traveler, our employees don’t always respond as we would like them to, resulting in pushback and frustrations for everyone involved.

Leadership on the front line requires more than authority and edict.  It requires influence.  Like the sun, you can often get more results when you rely on warmth instead of strength.  As entrepreneur Jim Goodnight once said, “Treat employees like they make a difference, and they will.”

For many, transitioning to a softer set of skills in dealing with employees is foreign and seems counter to everything you may have ever been taught or experienced throughout your career.  However, being a leader and demonstrating through example isn’t a sign of weakness and doesn’t mean you have to lower your standards.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.  Authority will get you compliance, but influence is required to gain buy-in and commitment. 

Consider ways you can more effectively rise up and shine as a leader.  Recognize that warmth is far more effective than strength when trying to motivate others.  Leadership is felt by your employees because of what you do, not what you say. Build a fire within your employees, not beneath them. 

The opinions and comments expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not reflect the opinion of ALMA, The American Equity Underwriters, Inc., AEU LEAD or Amwins. None of the aforementioned parties or the authors are responsible for any inaccuracy of content or for any loss or damages incurred by any party as a result of reliance on information contained in this article. Content may not be published or reproduced without the written consent of the authors. Prior articles may not be updated for accuracy as pertinent information changes over time. The AEU LEAD blog is intended to provide general information and should not be construed as legal advice.
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