In his Social Capitalist interview, Jeffrey Pfeffer, Stanford Professor and author of Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t, shared perspectives on power, kindness, and generosity that differ dramatically from one the fundamental concepts of myGreenlight – lead with generosity. How do you feel about his comments?
There is this tendency to assume that competency and niceness are, in fact, independent of each other. You can be smart and nice or dumb and mean. All four selves are possible. But empirically, people tend to see niceness and competence, or niceness and smartness, or niceness and brilliance, as being negatively related. Theresa Amabile, who’s now on the Harvard Business School faculty, wrote an article many years ago entitled “Brilliant But Cruel,” in which she found that people who gave negative book reviews were seen as not as nice, not as kind, not as warm, but also seen as smarter.
The best advice I have here comes from my dear friend, the great social psychologist Robert Cialdini, who first of all put me on to this quote from Golda Meir, the now deceased Israeli Prime Minister. She said, “Don’t be so modest, you’re not that good.” So Bob Cialdini’s advice is first, demonstrate competence, intelligence, power and success. And then once you are powerful, successful, and seen as being brilliant and everything else, then when you demonstrate your niceness, you will not erode this idea of your competence and smartness. And secondly, people will be really grateful because they often associate power with bullying behavior, anger, and all these other displays. And so, they’ll really like you and admire you and really respect you.
So first, demonstrate competence – and then you can be nice. But if you demonstrate niceness first, you may never get a chance to demonstrate your competence and your intelligence.
For more of this thought-provoking interview, click here: full transcript.