How Servant Leaders Use the Amplification Hypothesis

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There’s nothing worse than manipulative leaders — people who will use whatever’s around them to further their own goals, dreams and aspirations. More and more, managers are finding smart ways to get other people to do what they want them to do — sometimes in ways that make them believe it was their idea!

The amplification hypothesis came out of the “Journal of Personality and Social Psychology” in 2008. This hypothesis states that if you desire something of someone else and you know they are inclined to disagree, instead of disagreeing with them, find something in their response to agree with. Then, make a suggestion/statement that’s in line with the conversation to have them buy into it so you can turn it around and compel them to your original request, getting what you desire and making them believe they’re actually in agreement with it. 

For example, a leader could say, “We ought to spend an eighth of our budget on entertainment in the workplace.” The response comes back, “No, we need to look at options to expand our national reach.” Then the leader replies, “Yes, you’re right. We need to look at ways to draw more national attention to us. The new influx of people who are employed here think we haven’t found a way to engage others.” The other person says, “Yes, let’s think of ways to make that happen.” Next, the leader comes around and states, “You know what? If we become more engaging here in the workplace, it will foster momentum to become more engaging nationally. How do you think we can become more engaging here?” Naturally, the conversation is going to go right back to becoming more entertaining in the workplace, the original statement made by the leader, who has subtly manipulated the other person to ultimately get what he desires. 

But what if we had the kind of leaders that used the amplification hypothesis to the advantage of the people they serve? We have people all around us who have incredible ideas, but some of them don’t think those ideas will have the opportunity to make it. Others have either lost confidence in themselves, aren’t growing in certain areas or are just stuck in life. We can use our voice to amplify their ideas or give courage to them. It’s not about it being our idea, nor is it about us being hoisted upon their shoulders, thanking us for being the difference maker in their lives. What if servant leaders used the amplification hypothesis as a method of unlocking potential versus hoarding the credit?

Here are some ideas in how to use the amplification hypothesis to build up others:

1. Practice servant-led active listening. Primarily, those who use the amplification hypothesis are listening to find a way to turn the tables to have the conversation come back to them. They are using active listening, but it’s entirely self-serving. Servant-led active listening hears the words of the other person to discover where the servant leader can start uncovering hidden potential. It’s listening for the keys that will open that person’s floodgates.

2. Ask engaging questions. Part of the active listening process is hearing what others are trying to say and partnering with it. Some leaders will utter what others are trying to say before they say it, stealing their momentum. It looks like agreement, but when it happens to people who are searching for confidence or their “why,” the good intention becomes highway robbery. Instead of explaining their thoughts to them, ask questions that will allow them to reveal their ideas themselves. Asking an engaging question is a clever way to guide people while allowing them to lead at the same time.

3. Be aware of your biases. What tends to get many servant leaders in a bind are their vices. Servant leaders who know their tendencies and practice techniques that mitigate those tendencies end up being significant in their service to others. A sure way to derail people’s pursuit of their best is operating out of our least.

4. Show genuine belief in their ability. Typically, those who use the amplification hypothesis want to find the weak point in another person’s commentary so they can take advantage. Leaders do the same with talent, looking to see what they can take advantage of to their benefit. Instead, servant leaders should take the expertise of the people they’re serving at face value. Instead of telling them immediately how they can improve, begin to show them how valuable they are right now.

5. Approach them as a partner. Many of us are great leaders who love to assert ourselves with the attitude of a leader. To people who are struggling to find their dream or significance in the world, this approach compels them to submit rather than stand. If we are going to amplify them, we must give them the platform to stand on to “speak up.” As long as we’re standing on that leadership platform, they’ll sit in that submission seat and never stand up with what they have. A partnership approach says we believe in them and we’re beside them, supporting them in every way. Their success IS our success.

Servant leaders should always strive to give the advantage, not take advantage. Amplifying others will increase their influence as it increases ours.  



Lyle Tard
Servant Leader Catalyst, RBLP-C, Emotional Intelligence Influencer

Lyle Tard is the Founder and CEO of IMPACT Servant Leadership, started in 2018. He is currently in his 19th year as a Technical Sergeant in the United States Air Force. While still on active duty, Lyle serves his country at the 305 Maintenance Group at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst as the Non-Commissioned Officer in charge of Training Management.

As a communicator, Lyle has spoken worldwide inside and out of the military community. He has motivated young adults at institutions such as Atlanta Leadership College, American University, Harvard Kennedy School of Government and his alma mater, Ashford University. Just as in the Air Force, Lyle takes pride in leading the next generation of world changers. From universities to businesses to churches, Lyle's passion is to influence the world to realize that "Leaders lead best when they serve." IMPACT Servant Leadership aims to transition our most impactful areas of society to realize that achieving power with others is more beneficial socially and economically than asserting power over others. Lyle is also the primary moderator of the Service is Power podcast, spreading the message that "The Power to Serve,