Leaders Model the Behavior they Expect

Recently, I planned an event that took place at a hotel, and I needed to check in eight rooms at once.

The front desk was busy, and so I understood that I needed to wait my turn. No problem.

However, the two employees there were not moving very quickly.

It was as though they felt no sense of urgency at all, with a full lobby…

It’s not that they were being thorough, they were slow, and kind of cold.

This made me a touch impatient. Then, the manager (well-dressed, cheerful, smiling) arrived on the scene, and I was momentarily relieved.


Because, here’s what I pictured:

The manager would swoop in, station himself at the middle, unused computer, smile and say “Who’s next?” Then, I would step up and tell him about the 8 rooms I needed to check in, and he would smile, and say something like, “I can take care of that for you.” Then he’d proceed to very obviously, very quickly, and very efficiently show those other two employees how it’s done around here. With a smile! 🙂

Here’s what actually happened:

Manager: “Have you been helped?”

Me: “No, not yet, but that’s okay – it’s busy, huh? Lots of birthday parties, it looks like.”

Manager: “Yeah, it’s crazy.”

Me: “I just need to check in eight rooms.”

Manager: “EIGHT!?”

Me: “Yup, I’ve got a couple groups here.”

Manager: [gesturing to the employee to his right] “Then she can help you.” [laughs, turns away, and leaves.]


So, I waited longer. No problem. They were busy. Plus, they were doing things exactly as they had learned around here. What more could I expect?

The next morning, a needed training room was locked. I went to the front desk to let them know that it was locked. Simple oversight; simple to fix, right? It just needed to be unlocked by 8:00 a.m.

It was unlocked at 8:20.

It was a nice place, with nice people. What would it be like if the managers modeled the behavior that ought to be expected?

Have you seen a train? Have you seen the cars pass the engine? Never.

If you’re a leader, and you do things at level 10, your followers will likely do them at an “8”.

If you have a rough day, and your effort is a “7”, expect your followers to be at a “5”.

To paraphrase Kouzes and Posner:

Leaders model the way by setting the example for others in ways that are consistent with their values. This promotes consistent progress and building of commitment.

Let’s get to work!

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