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Influence as a leader? Learning from brain science

How do you get as a leader more influence on people and situations? Brain science offers valuable tools.

Because the human brain is fascinating. And workt sometimes surprisingly different than we think. AIf you know how we humans think and act, you will be more successful in influencing us. influence. Nothing wrong with that, provided you do it ethically. We’d like to give you a crash course.

The power of influence: 4


Do you want to have more influence as a leader? The power of influence is related to the following four processes:

Bias: Your bias

You probably recognize it: as soon as you shake someone’s hand shudtyou’ll know whether or not you can get along with this person. Your judgment is made in seconds. You’re not the only one. Because if dait’s right or wrong, wI ndeed, Ievery human being has prejudices. And everyone is influenced by their own prejudices. That last one is an interesting one. Because if you let yourself be led by your prejudices, it can be detrimental in your relationship with the other person. That can come at the expense of your influence as a leader. So ask yourself: Why do I have this bias? Klop that? And how can I still influence it? Have you got that straight? Then it can help you increase your influence.

Elementary processes (often unconscious)

Why do I think the way I do? And why dodo I do things the way I do them? That has to do with the values you were taught at home. You often discover these elementary processes in yourself and in a team when a new employee arrives. Because then you have to explain to that employee why you do what you do. It makes you think and to self-reflect.

An example: I was raised a Christian. We were allowed on Sunday nothing buy. My husbandwho is Roman Catholic is who was raised Roman Catholicwas allowed to do so. When we were first together when we went on holiday, I bought two baguettes on Saturday. My husband understood There no part of. WWhy did we have to eat stale bread on Sunday? I went then think to myself, why am I doing it this way? You find out by entering into relationships with others and being open to them. If you as a leader inzinsight into your own elementary processes, then you can figure out how best to influence someone, with integrity and in line with that person’s values.

Cognitive processes: influencing your prejudices

Like I said, everyone has prejudices. The best are the studies of diversity in the Netherlands. We all shout that we are so tolerant, but in reality the situation is different. It is therefore logical that you too, as a leader, have prejudices. If you are aware of this and if you know what fuels your own prejudices, you can try to influence them. prejudices, then you can try to influence them.

Motivational processes (what can I get out of it?)

Why do I act the way I do? Why do I have the motivation for anything? And what does that mean for my position now and in the longer term? The other person’s ambition immediately does something to the mutual relationship. Ambition can be threatening, for example if you fear that the other person has missed out.nt on your job. This may adversely affect adhesion. For example, you’re going to share less information with this person, for fear of the competition. Conversely, it may also be the case that the other person – for example, an employee – has no ambitions.efwhen you’d like him to have those ambitions. Then maybe it’s a good thing at realize that there are people who don’t have that much ambition and would find it more enjoyable to hear from another at tell them what to do. Mspike there could also be a certain blockage that the other is preventing the ambition at wish to live up to.


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As a leader, do you want to have more influence on people and situations? Then you can use the following techniques. You are not manipulating anything by doing this, you are simply using the knowledge from brain science:

Sensory stimulation

The basis of our judgment of someone is sensory stimulation. What does someone look like? How does someone speak? What does someone smell like? So pay attention to that in the relationship with others.

Nudging: a friendly nudge in the right direction

You want to get something done? Then it helps if you make the decision process as easy as possible for people by giving them a friendly nudge. This is called nudging. Making a decision is difficult because you have to make a choice end that always goes hand in hand with loss of something. The trick is to make the advantage as big as possible and the loss as small as possible. Take the energy transition. Just saying: we have to get rid of the gas, is far too big for people. It’s only logical that this will meet with a lot of resistance. The government could also decide to the purchase of for example an electric hotplate subsidizeso that it costs a maximum of 500 eurosost. Or to only build houses without gas connections and with a heat pump. That makes the decision easier.

Social coordination

Each person exhibits more coordinated behavior in the presence of another. When the parents are standing along the line, you try harder to play football. And if someone in the department starts grumbling, then the rest of them start grumbling too. It is therefore important that you set a good example as a manager.

Think about the behaviour you would like to see in eteam and set a good example. This is how you work on social engineering.

Social engineering

How do you get your team to solve a problem on their own? If there is a problem, then the first person employees look to is their supervisor. As a manager you are then tempted to get involved. After all, you feel responsible. Often it’s better not to say anything. You will see that employees will then solve the problem themselves. Just let it go.

Setting group targets

Do you want to make employees of a team jointly responsible? And would you like to go for it together? Set group goals. What do we want to achieve together? This ensures that every employee will embrace and pursue these goals. These goals should be acceptable and realistic. Important: evaluate and adjust in time, so that the goals remain alive.

Body Language

Your body language should match what you are saying. It is important that you are aware of this, both in yourself and in others. What your body emits is usually the truth. Like you can read body language of your teammates wellt read and interpretthen it’s very valuable.

Self-aware emotion

Deal with your emotions consciously. Are you angry or happy? Then decide for yourself how you want that anger or happiness commitment. Are you going to let yourself go or doare you taking a step back? It depends on the situation and the goal you want to achieve.


Good to know: peopleand people are attached to people and stuff. So you’re scrapping the company car? Or is a good colleague leaving? Then prepare yourself well. Have a conversation with the employees. And discussin that second case, how you’re going to handle this colleague’s departure together. Informal contact with employees is very important. Have a listening ear.

Want to know more about value-creating leadership? Then download the ebook Leadership in the Economy of Value. Or click here for our leadership training courses.

dr. Pim Valentijn

I research the added value of healthcare innovations and the steps needed to achieve better health, better care and lower costs. For this I connect science with practice.

Through thorough research, I determine how organizations perform in realizing value-driven care. With this knowledge I help build future-proof healthcare organizations and networks.

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