A team of management students from SCMS called me to know if I can interact with them on a Sunday afternoon, on how to use ‘soft power in organizations to lead effectively’. I instantly obliged as it is an opportunity for me to organize my thoughts about it.
I explained 3 things.
Structure determines behavior. We achieve things not because of willpower or motivation. It is because we do it regularly, with discipline. We are following a process. A system which takes care of our ‘daily willpower challenges’. It is a regime we follow so that we do not deviate much from the expectation.
Our brain is wired against doing difficult things. So we skip uncomfortable things, even if it is good for us. Sometimes an external force can push to do it. The job of a coach is to take you to a zone where you wouldn’t take yourself to.
Humans are hardwired to be loss averse due to asymmetric evolutionary pressure on losses and gains: for an organism operating close to the edge of survival, the loss of a day’s food could cause death, whereas the gain of an extra day’s food would not cause an extra day of life.
So extra push, sometimes with threat, intimidation and even physical force required to get things done. This works well with an uneducated, semi-skilled abundant workforce who needs forceful leadership.
In a knowledge economy, people are knowledge assets and they rent their assets to the companies for monthly salary or a fee. Every resource is billable and is valuable. SO managing them needs to be through persuasion and trust building. Nudging them to act based on company goals. Aligning their skills and aspirations to the company’s goals and values.
System is clear and set. It can scale and help to standardise.
Force can lead large mass of people. Driving them with fear.
Nudge is soft power. It is subtle, yet powerful.
Are we culturally inclined to nudge people to perform? It requires patience, ability to persuade, negotiate and most importantly regulate real emotions.
Leadership is not instant gratification game. It is careful delicate act of building trust.