The 2 Qualities You Absolutely, Positively Need

“We must combine the toughness of the serpent and the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most of us have been seen by a physician who is knowledgeable and competent, but doesn’t come across as caring. Conversely, we have all seen parents who want to be their child’s friend yet lack the firmness of appropriate discipline.

I recently read Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities That Make Us Influential by John Neffinger and Matthew Kohut. I was introduced to a very simple but insightful principle: the two qualities that make a person influential are Strength and Warmth. In the scenario above, the physician projected Strength but not Warmth. The parent possessed Warmth but not Strength.

The quality of Strength includes confidence, competence, passion, and grit.

The quality of Warmth includes kindness, connection, empathy, and congeniality.

The authors state that Strength and Warmth are not an ‘either/or’ proposition. You don’t have to sacrifice one quality for the other. It is quite possible to project both Strength and Warmth simultaneously. Think of it as two separate scales each ranking from 1-10. Theoretically, a person can be low in both Strength and Warmth, high in only one or the other, or, optimally, high in both Strength and Warmth.

Think about this concept in real-life situations. 

When we go for a job interview, the interviewer is essentially thinking about two things:

Can the person do the job? (Strength)
Do I want to work with this person? (Warmth)

If you are a leader, you need to be able to affirm, encourage and take an interest in your direct reports (Warmth). It is also your responsibility to step into difficult conversations and candidly address performance or behavior issues (Strength). 

If you are a presenter, it is essential that you first build rapport with your audience (Warmth) and then influence them with information that is presented in a confident, clear, and cohesive manner (Strength.)

Here are some practical tips to enhance both your Strength and Warmth.

Enhancing Strength

  • Become proficient in your field
  • Be clear and confident in your communication
  • Be a person of action-get results
  • Always be respectful but do not let others intimidate you

Enhancing Warmth

  • Build rapport by remembering people’s names and asking others about themselves
  • Regularly express appreciation and encouragement to others
  • Practice empathy-put yourself in the other person’s place and express care and concern
  • Build connectedness by finding areas of common interests (favorite sports team, hobbies, etc.)

So it is time for a little self-assessment. Where do you fall? Are you high in one area and low in another? Are you low in both? Your aim should be to project both Strength and Warmth everyday at a level of 10.

Teddy Roosevelt went on African safaris, had a boxing ring installed in the White House and continued giving a speech even though he was shot and bleeding (true story!). Yet he taught Sunday School to kindergarten kids and often made his cabinet wait as he played hide-and-seek with his kids.

I like that combination. Tough and tender.