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Mind Your Business Professional Issues

Are you a leader in your practice?

This post is based on the article published in the Harvard Business Review: Be seen as a leader (December 2013)

by Adam D. Galinsky and Gavin J. Kilduff


Social scientists have spent decades studying how individuals achieve status within organizational groups—that is, how they gain respect, prominence, and influence in the eyes of others.

Age, looks, position, expertise, competence as well as commitments matter. However, the old adage “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” is at least partially true. Numerous studies show that social hierarchies develop quickly and are generally stable: People who achieve high status early tend to retain it. All this to suggest that the influence you’ll have on a group is largely predetermined by factors beyond your control.

Through a series of experiments, we have shown that anyone can achieve higher status on a team, both at the outset and over time, by temporarily shifting his or her mind-set before a first meeting. Put simply, the attitude with which you enter a new group—something completely within your control—can help boost your chances of leading it.

A Push Towards Proactivity

The focus is on mindset and behaviour. 

Research shows there are certain “competence cues,” such as speaking up, taking the initiative, and expressing confidence, that suggest leadership potential. These proactive behaviors can be good indications that a person has useful expertise and experience, or they might simply
reflect deep-seated personality traits such as extroversion and dominance. However, there’s increasing evidence that people can propel themselves into proactivity by temporarily shifting their psychological frame of mind.

It’s pretty easy to push yourself into the kind of proactivity that marks you as a person worthy of respect—someone others want to follow.

What does this mean for you? 

Pick the mindset that feels most authentic to you and use one of these priming methods:

  • To shift your mind toward a promotion focus, take a moment to write a few paragraphs describing your ambitions and what you hoped to achieve in life.
  • To prime yourself to feel more powerful, recall and describe an incident in which you had power over another person.
  • To stimulate happiness, take a moment to write about a time when you felt excited and joyful.

A small change in the thoughts and feelings you bring to your first encounter with a group can have a significant impact on your status in it. Conventional wisdom says that success comes from having the right attributes, or from being in the right place at the right time. Research suggests that it is also a matter of being in the right frame of mind at the right time.


Do you have any particular question on this topic? Do you have any comments or suggestions? Email us at oasisdiscussions@cda-adc.ca

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