Science & Leadership Potential

This is the first blog in our quick five min reads series, in which we summarise articles we found interesting/useful.  Our thinking is to provide you the main points that will either satisfy you or lead you to your own further reading.
First up is Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “What science tells us about leadership potential”.

Apply what we know, ignore what we think we know

Thomas urges us to recognise that the scientific study of leadership is well established despite there being a huge gap between what is known and what is practiced. Sadly  much of commercial leadership practice is not based on rigorous scientific understanding.  This results in enormous losses in dollars, trust and resignations.

Common belief challenged

Many people believe that leadership is situational and anyone can lead.  The reality is that some people are more likely to become leaders.  We have the means to test for this with good psychological tools.  The personality characteristics that increase the likelihood of a person becoming a leader include; being well adjusted, sociable and curious.  IQ also plays a part – albeit a smaller one.  Although emergence does not automatically equate to effectiveness: we do know effective leaders are high in integrity and emotional intelligence.

Different styles

This doesn’t mean that there is only one type of effective leader, or one type of personality that can lead.  Different personality types can result in different styles for example transactional, transformational or entrepreneurial .

Leaders – born or made?

The answer is some of both.  Although heritable traits feature extensively (30-60% in fact), and are evident from a young age, it is possible to boost key leadership competences up to 30% with coaching.

Does gender matter?

No – differences are “virtually non-existent”.

What makes leaders go bad?

Many of the useful leadership traits can be present in the same leader as destructive traits.  Coaching can (sometimes) help leaders to recognise and control their toxic traits.

Relevance today?

The foundations of leadership have evolved since the beginning of time and are not likely to change – even in todays high-tech fast-paced society.
Bottom line: it is high time we spent our time & money applying what we know and stopped wasting our valuable resources on what we know for sure – that just ain’t so (so said Mark Twain and he was on the money).

Links, References etc

Art by Rosie (12)

8 Tips to Get Control of your Habits

Recently I have focused on blogging and reading on the science of habits.  I have summarised my learnings in these eight evidence-based tips to create the habits you want & delete the ones you don’t:

  1. Get clear on your values and roles life (e.g. coach, parent, employee, leader).
  2. Set clear SMART goals for your planned habit changes (aligned to your values and roles).
  3. Ensure you have social support to keep you on track.  Ideally have someone or a group/team to answer to.
  4. Understand your cues, routines and rewards (for good and bad habits), try fiddling with them to stop bad habits & start good ones.
  5. Piggy back new habits onto existing ones (e.g. floss after brushing your teeth).
  6. Work with what you know about your personality, preferences and lifestyle to design the structure, tools etc that work best for you.  Don’t waste your time or money on one-size-fits-all solutions.
  7. Build regular self-care into your life to keep you on track.
  8. If you miss a day – Keep Calm & Carry On!

Keen to know more? Here is the fuller list with the links to relevant blogs and discussions.

  • Your intentions matter, as does environment and sometimes suddenly changing your environment (e.g. moving) changes habits.
  • Habit-forming is an asymptotic curve, i.e. there is some sort of tipping point of habity-ness. In this process, there are large individual differences.
  • The role of rewards in habits seems a bit unclear.
  • Missing ‘the odd’ day in habit formation is not big deal.
  • Charles Duhigg’s famous work focuses on the habit cycle: cue, routine & reward.  He says understanding this is key to breaking bad habits and forming good ones.  However I wonder if the lack of agreement on the role of reward in habits undermines his theory?  Although my personal experience in my 30 days to sobriety certainly support his thinking, as replacing ‘pour wine’, with read the book chapter, when the cravings kicked in, in the late afternoon, really helped.
  • Try and imbed new habits within existing routines but not at the start of them.
  • Traditional thinking was that our willpower (which is important in habits) would deplete or run out as the day/challenges went on.  This theory has experienced some debunking, which leaves big gaps in the understanding of habits.
  • Proactivity helps, but that might be difficult to learn.
  • Goals matter, but they must be aligned to your personal values as well as your roles in life to really make a difference.
  • To achieve anything much in live (including good habits) self care in emotional, social and physical domains matters.
  • Other things I have learned or vaguely remember include; social support is important, as is flexibility.
  • For me some kind of structure, tools processes is important – hence why the 30 day to sobriety program worked so well for me.  I am not sure if I am alone here or not.

Yours as Ever,
The Wellbeing At Work Dr.

Links etc

Choose habits from the categories drop down (right side or bottom) to see the blogs contributing to this.
Photo Credit
Adapted from