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  • Writer's pictureDr. Vera Alves

Do You Want to Grow Professionally? Consider Balancing Warmth and Competence

Professional growth is a tricky subject that can come with quite a few hurdles. Most of us want to advance and grow professionally, but so many factors can lead to promotion opportunities that we often don’t know where to start. This article will explore the importance of balancing warmth and competence when paving the path to your professional future and leadership positions. Warmth and competence are the basic dimensions that almost entirely explain how positively or negatively we evaluate other people based on their behaviors and the impressions we get when we meet them.[1]

The Importance of Competence for Career Advancement

Competence is a crucial element any time you want to advance in a professional setting and refers to how capable, skillful, intelligent, and confident a person is.[2] Before you can grow in your career, you need to demonstrate your skills and capacity to get things done successfully. Employees who excel in behaviors and skills that are important to their jobs are usually considered more suitable for promotions. Therefore, competence is key to career advancement.

How We Read People and Why Warmth is so Important

When we meet a new person, whether we realize it or not, we always focus on gauging who they are—and trying to predict how they will behave. We frequently judge them in terms of warmth. A warm person is usually good-natured, trustworthy, tolerant, friendly, and sincere.[2] Warmth judgments affect how much we trust people and their intentions.

Leaders need to develop the ability to influence people. Research indicates that the best way to do so is to demonstrate warmth.[3] When warmth is prioritized, leaders demonstrate their ability to hear and understand and are also able to establish trust. A natural consequence is that connections are more easily established.[4] Not only can this help your career advancement by assisting you in cultivating relationships, but it can also make you a more approachable and reliable leader.

Effective Leadership: How Being Liked Impacts Team Performance

When a team enjoys the presence of its leader, something truly magical happens. Teams that have a well-liked leader often perform better. One obvious reason is that employees are more likely to go that extra mile for a leader they admire and trust. In addition, when teams trust their leaders, they are bound to try new things and feel more confident as they take on tasks. A strong relationship between leaders and their teams can help them thrive and outperform those around them.

What Comes First: Warmth or Competence?

Leaders frequently fall into the trap of prioritizing the demonstration of competence.[4] They consider it fundamental to prove they are capable. However, the best way to influence and lead is to start by demonstrating warmth.[3] Gaining loyalty and being persuasive in a sustainable way depends on warmth and trustworthiness.[3] In every situation, ask yourself how you can show you are approachable, trustworthy, fair, and at the same time, competent and a go-getter. We all want to be led by someone we can trust and admire for their capacity to deliver results and help us grow professionally and personally. The more your teams thrive, the more chances of professional growth you and your team members will have.

What Do Leaders Strong in Warmth and Competence Do?

Some common traits we find in leaders that we consider warm and competent are:

  • Being good listeners—Listening is a fundamental skill that leaders need to develop. Show people that you are invested in what they have to say. Learn from different perspectives and experiences.

  • Building solid relationships—Work is important, but we are all human beings with personal and professional needs. So, engage in appropriate small talk with your team members, pay attention to their needs, validate your people, show them you care for their well-being and not only for their business results.

  • Having high expectations – Being warm is not only about being close to your team members. It’s about being there for them, supporting them, encouraging them to achieve their full potential, and having high expectations about their performance. We all want a leader we can look up to and who will help us achieve what we never imagined we could.

How do you manage competence and warmth? What difference has that made to your career? Leave a comment here or send us an email at

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Vera Alves is the Chief Consulting Officer at Leader Essentials Group, with extensive experience in leadership development and business management. With over 12 years of experience as a C-suite executive, Vera is highly skilled in the areas of leadership, strategic planning, operations management, organizational behavior, and change management. She possesses highly developed communication, training, and linguistic skills reflective of a very strong and charismatic leadership style.

_________________________________________________________________________ [1] Wojciszke, B. (2005). Affective concomitants of information on morality and competence. European Psychologist, 10(1), 60-70. [2] Cuddy, A. J., Fiske, S. T., & Glick, P. (2008). Warmth and competence as universal dimensions of social perception: The stereotype content model and the BIAS map. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 40, 61-149. [3] Cuddy, A. J., Glick, P., & Beninger, A. (2011). The dynamics of warmth and competence judgments, and their outcomes in organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior, 31, 73-98. [4] Cuddy, A. J. C., Kohut, M., & Neffinger, J. (2013). Connect, then lead. University of Washington.

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