Leadership Behavior: Model the Way

The leadership behavior, modeling the way, is simply the leader doing what he or she expects the followers to do. If you expect people to speak respectfully to each other, speak respectfully to them. Leadership behaviors and organizational values should be spelled out and every leader be held accountable for modeling them. Behavior will always outweigh a list of values hung on the wall.

Leadership Tips

"Do as I say, not as I do" doesn't for work with adults any better than it works with kids. If you expect people to be on time for meetings, as the leader, always be there a few minutes ahead and begin exactly on time, every time, no exceptions.

If you aspire to be a leader, look and act like the level of leadership above you in order to be percieved as "management material." As Gandhi said, "Be the change you seek."

Being the change you seek is particularly important during large scale organizational change initiatives, such as a merger, enterprise-wide system upgrade, regulatory change or move. Leaders who are positive about the change will help the organization overcome the natural resistance to change.

Why Modeling Works as a Leadership Behavior 

The human brain is wired to learn by imitation. Particularly, the child is wired to copy the behavior of the higher status person, the parent. This brain wiring has two important applications in business. First, adults do copy the behaviors of those they deem of higher status. That means  most employees look at their boss to determine how to behave in the organization and what it takes to be promoted, if the employee is interested in moving up. That is good news if each supervisor or manager is modeling behavior that contributes to the organization.

The second implication is that employees choose the persons they deem to be of higher status. In the case of a weak or disliked boss, the employee may choose a fellow employee, who may or may not be modeling the expected behavior.

Therefore it is in the organization's best interest to have an unbroken chain of accountability for behaving according to the organization's stated values and policies. To facilitate this accountability, focus on the few key and critical values and policies. Long lists virtually guarantee that people will miss a few or simply pick and choose because "nobody can do all of that."

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