How You Influence Others Shows Them How You Think

Jarret Jackson
5 min readApr 29, 2022
Pyramid influencers use support and transparency to collaborate instead of fear to control. | Photo by J Venerosy on Unsplash

This fall, in a Forbes article, I introduced the idea of iceberg thinking versus pyramid thinking as a way to help leaders focus on how to use open-minded thinking to reduce stress.

Iceberg thinkers lean into their neurotic tendencies, acting out of distress. They are highly concerned about the perceptions of others and often act out of fear, shame or dysregulation as a result.

Pyramid thinkers are open-minded, focusing on opportunities and insight. They aren’t falsely positive; instead, they are open to new experiences, mindfully aware of themselves and the impacts they have on others, and empathetic to different perspectives. Pyramid thinkers are innovative leaders who outperform iceberg thinkers that aim to maintain control.

Over a decade ago, I briefly worked at Opower, a software company that uses Arizona State University professor emeritus Robert Cialdini’s work on social norms to help individuals reduce energy consumption. (Opower is now part of Oracle). In his book Influence: Science and Practice, Cialdini outlines six principles that people use to influence the behavior of others. Of these six, three are clearly iceberg motivators, aimed at controlling others: authority, social proof, and scarcity. Three are pyramid motivators, aimed at empowering others: commitment and consistency, liking, and autonomy.

As you think about helping your team differently in 2022, let’s explore those differences so you can decide how you want to influence your team.

Iceberg Influencers


The first (and most obvious) approach to influence is authority: we do what people tell us to do when we believe they have power over us. Another word for that? Bullying. Authority constrains our autonomy, which creates stress and leads to dysregulation in large groups of people. Think about it: If you are asked to do something by your boss and you’re not sure how to do it, you get scared and try to figure it out on you own first so you don’t look foolish. In other words, pressure from an authority figure adds stress to our systems, so that our brains are now working on two projects: re-regulating our dysregulated minds and bodies, and ensuring our ability to do the work we are being asked…

Jarret Jackson

I write about strategy, adaptive leadership and managerial psychology.