William Thackeray said, “the world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.” This observation goes double for leaders. Successful leaders understand the power of the “law of imitation.” This law holds that your actions, behaviors, and attitudes are replicated by your followers. If you are not happy with the performance of your people, is it possible that you are the source?
The Good, the Bad, and the Truth
Unconsciously, your people will mimic you. This means:
- If you don’t start your meetings on time, neither will your people.
- If you are painfully slow at making decisions, your people will be too.
- If you are defensive when you get negative feedback, don’t expect your people to invite constructive criticism.
On the other hand:
- If you are warm and engaging, your people will be warm and engaging.
- If you keep your commitments, your people will keep theirs.
- If you accept accountability for your mistakes, your people will be accountable.
Be the Change
To make the “law of imitation” work as a positive force in your organization, be the change you want to see in your organization. If you don’t like the culture of your department, division, or company, start by changing yourself. Set a new standard. Start walking your talk by following these three tips:
- Model the behavior you want to see from others. There is nothing more powerful for employees than seeing their leaders model the actions or behaviors they are requesting from others.
- If you make a rule or design a process, follow it, until you decide to change it. Why would employees follow the rules if the rule makers don’t?
- Ask senior managers to police themselves. They must provide feedback to each other when they fail to walk their talk. It is not up to the supervisors and other employees to point out inconsistencies. Senior managers must be accountable to each other for their own behavior.
The bottom line is that you are the prototype for your followers. Pay careful attention to your own behavior. Live by the rules that you lay down. Make senior staff accountable for their behavior.
You are a living example of what it takes to go to the next level. And remember, you will replicate yourself.
Question: If your people imitated you in everything you do, would you be happy with their performance? Please share your thoughts and comments below.