Stop worrying about leadership behaviors: Focus on this instead

Get it right on the inside and you’ll get it right on the outside.  That’s good advice that is rarely followed in today’s management literature.  Instead there seems to be a focus on just getting it right on the outside.  This can work, but it’s probably leaving your direct reports feeling a little empty at best—or distrusting at worst.

When leaders focus only on their behaviors and outside appearances, they are presenting a thin veneer of leadership that can work for a short while, but which eventually breaks down—especially under pressure. 

Wondering how you can get it right on the inside instead of working so hard to act in a prescribed way on the outside?  Here are some ways to get started.  These are based on answers to the question, “Who was your best boss?” and “What made them so special?” that Blanchard consultants have been asking in classes and presentations over the years.

See people as assets to develop instead of liabilities to manage.  Good leadership begins with a fundamental belief in people and the value that they can bring to a company.  Where do you stand on this?  Do you focus on people’s strengths and how to maximize them, or do you tend to focus on weaknesses and how to correct them?  How does that impact your leadership behaviors?

Assume the best.  People have good days and bad days.  They make mistakes, exhibit poor judgment, and sometimes let you down.  How do you react to these situations?  What is the story that you are telling yourself about their actions?  Are you assuming they had good intentions and just fell short, or does this just go to show that you were right about them all along? Your resulting leadership behavior will be very different depending on your mindset.   

See yourself as a leader instead of as an evaluator.  Part of leadership is matching skill sets to the overall goals of the organization.  The ability to discern talent and apply it effectively is an important quality.  But don’t make that the sole focus of your leadership.  Instead, go beyond getting the right people in the right positions and actively work to help them succeed in their roles.  See their success as a partnership between you and them.  When people sense that you are on their side, helping them to succeed, they act and perform very differently than if they feel that you are primarily judging and evaluating them.

Beliefs and attitudes drive your behaviors.  In today’s open and connected world, you have to be genuine and authentic.  Leaders who get it right on the inside naturally display genuine behaviors on the outside that people respond to.  Take a look at your leadership beliefs.  Work on the inside first.

20 thoughts on “Stop worrying about leadership behaviors: Focus on this instead

  1. Wow. Simply one of the best things I have read on leadership. Thanks Ken. This is (to me) a big part, or even the definition of servant leadership. Would love for all of our Leaders to read this and apply it.

    I use your great quote “Catch them Doing Something Right” all the time and have it listed at The CARE Movement.

    Much appreciation and gratitude for you Ken. Thanks again, for all you do.

    Take CARE.


    • Hi Al,
      I will pass along your comments to Ken and let him know that you are a big fan of his quote, “Catch people doing things right.” I know that it is one of the concepts he believes is among the most important he has shared over the years. Thanks for your comment.

  2. I have always focused on people’s strengths and a partner in their success.It has been a great experience. A fine write up, Mr. Ken Blanchard.. I have a few books written by you in my library and have also read them.

    • Hi Rajendra,
      Glad to hear about your strengths-based approach to leadership. Keep up the good work and please share your thoughts on future posts here at LeaderChat.

  3. Pingback: Stop worrying about leadership behaviors: Focus on this instead « Blanchard LeaderChat « Life Goals, Challages, and Directions

  4. Wise words. Great leadership always starts with looking in the mirror. I teach a management class for an MBA program in town and am always challenging them to see how they may be part of the “problem”, focusing on their “be-ing”.

      • Hi David,
        Thanks for the shout out regarding my blog. I appreciate it. You asked how my students react when I tell them to look at themselves. At first they looked a little stunned that I would dare challenge them like that, but at the end of class when I ask them what they are taking away from our time together, I do hear some good feedback about how I’m making them think to become better managers.

        Its fun to help people shift their point of view, isn’t it?


  5. Agree some really thought provoking statements here. Something to keep in the back of your mind, not only for when you are interacting with employees, but also with your own manager too.

  6. Bill George, author of 4 of my favorite books on leadership, linked to this article on Facebook. It’s one of the few articles on leadership I’ve read that hits the nail on head. Jack Welch said, “Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing I can do. Because then they will act.” Agree. Like Jack, I’m a firm believer in human capital. Too few companies today invest in people and talent. It’s shortsighted. The result is expensive mistakes that trickle to shareholders, employers and the public as a consumer.

    • Hi Maria–thanks for sharing your thoughts and also letting us know about the mention by Bill George. He’s a favorite of ours also. The importance of being an authentic leader is more apparent now than ever. Another great book on a human capital approach to leadership is Employees First, Customers Second by Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies. I recommend it highly if you haven’t read it yet.

  7. Getting the stop worrying help that you need is important if you want to feel better and move on with your life. You can find support for your anti-worry efforts through self-hypnosis. This process is a guide that makes retraining your responses easier.

  8. Pingback: Assets to Develop or Liabilities to Manage? « africabound

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