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Brain circuits

Understanding the effect you have on others

Published 29 June 2021 in Brain circuits • 3 min read

Do you ever wonder why people are responding or not responding to you as a leader? If you think it may have to do with you, you are probably right. There is something called “the person effect” which is the unique impact, positive or negative, a person has in coming across and connecting with others. It includes the leader’s state of being, their words and their physiology. 

The following are reasons why our person effect is one of our most important leadership tools: 

It is the key to effectively connect with others. A positive person draws others to them. Conversely, a negative person repels others. We have all recognized an overly positive or negative person. But most of the time, the person effect is subtler. Signals and triggers come through words, gestures, and tone of voice. Being aware of our person effect means that we are aware of our impact on others and the subtle impact of others on us by the triggers they evoke in us. Use this awareness as a leadership tool.

It shows up especially in our use of language.When we talk to someone, our blood pressure is automatically going to rise. When we listen, it automatically falls. It is important that we regulate our ability to listenin order to lower our blood pressure. Talking too much, not listening, and misusing language can affect our heart rate and blood pressure negatively. In healthy dialogue, there are strong benefits for our well-being.  

It impacts the Mind’s Eye. The Mind’s Eye defines the way we see the world through our mindset,perceptionand emotion. The person effect directly impacts the Mind’s Eye of others. If our person effect is threatening, dismissive, or unresponsive, others around us will be more focused on the negative and can be triggered into defensive or non-trusting behavior. The reverse is also true. If the leader’s person effect is positive, individuals will feel empowered, inspired, and innovative.  

Leaders can be effective in delivering tough feedback and pain without putting the other person on the defensive. The mark of a high performing leader is the ability to deliver pain and the other person says: “thank you, give me more.” Why? It is because the painful feedback is based on caring and learning.  

It can create a sense of trust.The person effect can inspire, create an attitude of engagement, or produce a feeling of discouragement and disengagement. It can discount others leaving them feeling unimportant. Motivation is highly connected to the person effect. So, one’s own attitude and emotional state can be revealed in their person effect.

Carefully consider how you are affecting others, and you can unlock your leadership potential. 


george kohreiser

George Kohlrieser

Distinguished Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behaviour at IMD

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IMD and Director of the High Performance Leadership program. He serves as a consultant to several global companies including Accenture, Amer Sports, Borealis, Cisco, Coca-Cola, HP, Hitachi, IBM, IFC, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Morgan Stanley, Motorola, NASA, Navis, Nestlé, Nokia, Pictet, Rio Tinto, Roche, Santander, Swarovski, Sara Lee, Tetra Pak, Toyota, and UBS.


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