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The Third Law

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Its Newton's third law of gravity. Before I lose you, YES this does have a correlation to leadership. It is important for leaders to know the impact that they have on others. Its not an exact match, a leaders actions shouldn't have an equal and opposite reaction. The important bit is the action...that is the piece leaders sometimes forget to focus on.

Leaders have a profound impact on others around them. Good, bad or otherwise, leaders need to understand that our interactions with one another drive action. That is where the law comes into place, for every action there is a reaction. The sum of those actions and reactions equal culture. Culture in turn influences our actions and reactions which then reinforce the culture.

At the heart of that symbiosis, is the leader. They set the stage and drive the cycle by their actions. If an organization wants to change culture they need to start with leadership. Additional changes may be needed but leadership is the beginning and end of culture changes. Without that change, culture change is only temporary.

  • "Be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mahatma Gandhi...sort of, he didn't actual say that direct quote. However, the message is powerful and a good one. A leader must be the change (or action) they want to see in their world. If you are 5 minutes late to a meeting, the culture will accept meetings that start late. If you get on your phone during a meeting, guess what, other will as well. If you loose your cool and call people out in front of others, you get the idea.
  • Understand as a leader you have a profound influence on the mood of others. For example, if in a meeting and you engage others with negativity you will get that right back or worse they will give that to others. It doesn't help to put a positive spin on things after being negative, the first action usually trumps mitigation techniques after. It is vital that leaders understand positive engagement techniques even when having to have hard conversations.
  • Always ask yourself, what actions (or reactions) are my actions driving. When you have a meeting, send an email, stop and say hi to someone, your actions have consequences. For example, telling your team to save money at all costs will drive certain action. Most likely actions you don't want to encourage. Make sure you are concise with that you say and if needed define the actions you are looking for. So instead of telling a team to save money, give them dedicated time (and permission) to stop normal work and instead focus on innovation that will result in greater value to the business.

Take time to watch how others are interacting and what action they are driving. This is also a great reflection tool, because the actions of your team will typically reflect your actions, conscious or subconscious (depending on how long you have been leading).

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