Volunteers were brought into a study and separated into teams to fold shirts. Half the team leaders were instructed to speak assertively/powerfully (“Do this!”) and the other half to speak tentatively/powerlessly (“Do you think doing this would be a good idea?”).
It was found that teams with proactive team members had 22% higher output under leaders who spoke tentatively. Proactive team members viewed them as open and receptive while they viewed leaders who made an effort to be assertive to be afraid of new ideas. The same study showed to be true in pizza delivery teams.
This behavior was found to be reversed in passive teams with less interested and less proactive team members. The more proactive the team, the less the need for an assertive leader and vice versa.
So, an Adam Grant leadership tenet – identify how proactive your team is and adjust your assertiveness accordingly.
When people think you’re trying to influence them, they put their guard up. But when they feel you’re trying to help them, or to muse your way to the right answer, or to be honest about your own imperfections, they open up to you. – Susan Cain (she was clearly talking about proactive people :-))
Source and thanks to Give and Take by Adam Grant.