To understand leadership, you must understand psychology. Because — after all — psychology is the scientific study of the mind and behavior, according to the American Psychological Association. And leadership is leveraging those minds and motivating the behaviors to achieve set objectives. More simply stated, an article from Psychology Today describes leadership as “the capacity to translate vision into reality,” with the mind and behavior as tools to get there.
As psychology impacts leadership, there are three distinct relationships worth exploring.
Understanding your audience’s motivations is integral for being able to affect them as a leader. Motivating factors are the driving force behind human behaviors and are a necessary consideration in the equation. There are various motivating factors, unique to each person, or a combination of them that makes people decide to act in a certain way. Sources of motivation include external incentives, internal enjoyment, curiosity, autonomy, validation of one’s identity and beliefs, creating a positive self-image and the desire to avoid potential losses.
Of particular interest as it relates to motivation in the workforce is the research Daniel Pink has done on intrinsic motivation. His theory is based on the concept three elements — autonomy, mastery and purpose — drives us to do our best work.
Emotional Intelligence (EQ)
EQ is a commonly discussed concept in leadership as it’s based on the ability not only to identify and manage your own emotions but also the emotions of others. That, of course, is important to lead a group of people. As a leader, you are often expected to help people manage emotions as well as apply them appropriately to tasks at hand, like thinking or problem-solving.
According to an article from Psychology Today, emotionally intelligent people are highly conscious of their own emotional state and can identify and understand what they’re feeling. This allows them to manage their emotions appropriately. Because of this, highly emotionally intelligent people have high self-confidence and are realistic about themselves.
Emotional intelligence typically falls into four categories:
- Social awareness
- Relationship management
As leaders set the tone for their organization, association or any group they’re leading, the ability to manage emotions to build confidence in followers and manage relationships with followers through empathy is of utmost importance to inspiring loyalty.
The better you understand yourself, the better you can lead others. This is because if you know how your values, habits and emotions affect your own actions and how they can potentially affect others, you’ll be able to manage yourself better and make careful decisions. This permits others to get in touch with themselves and not be afraid of examining their own tendencies.
If self-awareness leads to mindfulness, it takes the leader and their team to another level — one that is stressless, happy and productive. Harvard Research shows mindfulness helps leaders manage their stress, which helps reduce employee anxiety. The study found that when leaders fail to manage their own stress, more than half of their employees perceived their leader as harmful or ineffective. It also contributes to employees losing motivation to advance within the company.
Integrating mindfulness into everyday life — whether at work or not — will exercise the mind and create muscle memory. Soon, it will turn into a way of life.