I took AP Psychology my junior year of high school and fell in love with the subject. For a while I was considering pursuing a career in psychology until I stumbled upon the event management world. It was so fascinating to me how much goes on in our brains and how it affects everything around us. Psychology explains why we behave and think in certain ways as well as how our emotions and language help us to communicate with others. I was excited to know I would be taking a psychology course as part of my leadership scholarship to get a better understanding of how psychology applies to leadership.
The study of the mind gives reason to how and why we are they way we are which is critical for any person in a leadership role to know. Being able to effectively communicate to your followers and understand how not only yourself but the people around you work is an important skill to have as a leader. A few concepts I took away from this course was how to motivate others, how to lead groups using different behaviors, and how to use learning processes to train others.
When your followers are motivated, they are more likely to put forth the best effort. Stress can negatively affect motivation. It’s important to eliminate as much stress as possible within the environment in order to have a comfortable atmosphere where people are still motivated to do their best. A method that could help prevent stress is by using emotion-focused tactics. This means using one’s emotions such as smiling or laughing to communicate positive messages. For example, a manager could try to be more optimistic and happy during a rush hour or busy season to keep stress levels low. Congratulating employees and making sure they feel appreciated and valued can help sustain motivation. Establishing a good relationship between the manager and the employee is important as well. Ask your employees how they’re doing, get to know them, show interest in them as an individual. If the employee is not enjoying the work and engaged in the work they won’t be motivated. This ties into our intrinsic rewards which are outcomes that give an individual personal satisfaction. Another important concept of motivation is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This theory contains five levels of human needs that guide motivation. The first two levels are basic needs such as food, sleep, security. The third and fourth levels pertain to psychological needs such as belongingness, love, and feelings of accomplishment. The last level is the need for self-fullfillment when one achieves their full potential. Not everyone arrives at the fifth level but for most people, once their basic needs are met, long for love and accomplishment. Within a workplace, if the employees do not feel like they belong or that they aren’t achieving in their work there will be a lack of motivation resulting in low effort.
When it comes to behavior and leading, it is important to know that your behavior as a leader has a huge effect on your followers. In class we discussed how leaders can successfully manage small groups while reducing social loafing. Social loafing is when a person exerts less effort in a group than when they work alone. To keep this from happening, leaders can demonstrate task behaviors and relationship behaviors in order to guide a group towards a goal. Task behaviors initiate structure within the group. By establishing structure the leader could set specific deadlines, establish accountability and order within the group, supervise the the work, and keep everyone involved in the work. Relationship behaviors show consideration within the group. To display consideration the leader must focus on the satisfaction, motivation, and well being of the group members. It is important for the leader to treat all members equally and with respect, showing acceptance and support for everyone. Relationship behaviors encourages communication and teamwork. By using these two behaviors, all of the team members will feel included, productive, and motivated towards the goal.
We all have heard of the saying “leaders are the best teachers”. Teaching and learning has a lot to do with how our mind processes new information. Being in a leadership role one’s job may be to teach a new skill to a group of people. For example, say you’re a soccer coach trying to teach your players a new technique. By using your knowledge about observational learning and operant conditioning you will be best prepared to successfully teach your players the new skill. Observational learning is simply demonstrating a concept for others to observe. Once they have observed and learned the new concept they can begin practicing until the new concept is stored in their procedural memory which is a part of the long-term memory responsible for motor skills and knowing how to perform certain procedures. Operant learning uses reinforcements and punishments for guiding behavior. When something immediately follows a behavior, it can either increase or decrease the likelihood that the behavior will occur again.
Learning how psychology and leadership are so closely related has helped me identify where I could better lead my groups and the people around me. Having the knowledge of how our minds process every aspect of the world will benefit me as a leader as I move forward.