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The WSJ missed an important leadership behavior in their study of G. Washington

Are you modeling the kind of behaviors you want your team members to exhibit in your company or organization?

Virtually all respected leadership scholars and practitioners agree that leadership behavior is contagious. For better or worse, our behavior influences those we lead.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Sam Walker identifies what he calls “The Two Contagious Behaviors of a Great Boss.”

According to Walker, any leader who wants to be a “great boss” must exhibit two behaviors: relentlessness and iron-clad emotional control.

The article identifies General George Washington as an exemplar of a leader who exhibited these two behaviors, concluding that “there are only two ways to lead by example that are ALWAYS positive. George Washington embodied both.”

However, this study of Washington missed one other important leadership behavior.

Relentlessness is defined by Walker as “a combination of seriousness, courage, tenacity and outsize effort.” It is the ability to lead yourself and your team through arduous circumstances, just as Washington did with his troops on many harrowing occasions.

Iron-clad emotional control is described by the author as remaining emotionally composed, avoiding both angry outbursts and enthusiastic fanfare in victory. Washington believed that a leader’s emotions “ought to be under the guidance of reason.”

Walker goes on to suggest that leaders exhibiting “iron-clad emotional control” will also remain stoically disconnected from those they lead. After all, this was how General Washington led. “His stoicism didn’t endear him to everyone. Many officers found him cold and reserved and marveled that they’d never seen him smile.”

Yet, this is where the author missed a critically important distinction in leadership behavior.

While we agree that relentlessness and iron-clad emotional control are critically important leadership behaviors, choosing to be relationally and emotionally disconnected from those we lead is a mistake.

Our research, along with that of Gallup, Google, and many contemporary leadership researchers such as Dr. Daniel Goleman, Dr. Brene Brown and Dr. Scott Stanely have identified emotional and psychological safety as the defining characteristic of successful teams.

In a world driven by innovation and courage, a team that does not feel psychologically safe will underperform. Employees who feel psychologically safe are more likely to take risks, be creative, and speak out if they feel like a project is headed in the wrong direction.

Leaders cannot create psychological safety by stoically remaining aloof and emotionally detached from their followers. Instead, they must lead with openness and vulnerability.

In light of the latest research, it’s clear that the ability to create psychological safety is another contagious behavior of a great boss.

Thankfully, all three of these contagious behaviors can be measured and developed in your leaders.

For example, our assessment tool can measure relentlessness and iron-clad emotional control by using our behavioral scales for Urgency and Intensity, Endurance, and Self-Control.

Likewise, behavior scales such as Need to Nurture, Affiliation, and Deference can be used to measure a leader’s ability to create psychological safety.

Do your leaders develop friendships with the people they lead?

Do your teams share a genuine excitement and enthusiasm for your mission?

Do you celebrate your successes when you win together?

Using behavioral data and expert coaching, we can grow these contagious behaviors in your leaders!

Are you ready to win the war by creating a high-development culture? Contact us!


3 ways we can help you overcome the obstacles holding your team back:  

1. Learn how the Fortune 500 (e.g. LinkedIn, McKesson, Procter & Gamble) are using our behavioral analytics and coaching to optimize their teams for competition-busting results HERE.

2. Download our report “Solving the 5 Pervasive Team Challenges” and experience the power of our Teamalytics 360 Report for yourself or a team member at no charge HERE.

3. Grab a free Consultation to discuss the challenges on your team and how to leverage the power of behavioral analytics to solve them HERE.

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