How to Develop Leaders – Be a Thermostat

You know the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. The one in the picture has both. On the left is the thermometer. It tells you what the temperature is in the room. The one on the right is the thermostat setting. It tells you what the temperature will be. People can be like either one. Thermometers tell you it’s too hot or it’s too cold, or this or that is right or wrong. Thermostats behave in such a way as to make the temperature right. When it comes to developing people, the leader has to be a thermostat. The leader creates the climate for growth and development.

Look at nature. Plants require good soil, water, and sunlight depending on the species. Here’s another example from nature. One of the most popular aquarium fish is the shark. The reason for this is that sharks adapt to their environment. If you catch a small shark and confine it, it will stay a size proportionate to the aquarium in which it lives. Sharks can be six inches long and fully mature. but turn them loose in the ocean and they grow to their normal size.

The same is true of potential leaders. Some are put into an organization when they are still small and the confining environment ensures that they stay small and underdeveloped. Only leaders can control the environment of their organization. They can be the change agents who create a climate conducive to growth. Here are four ways to create that environment

Model the Leadership you want

People don’t usually do what they know. Either they do what they’ve always done, or they do what they see. As a leader, the visibility and consistency of your style has to be strong enough to overcome the 7 last words of the dead organization, “This is how we’ve always done it.” (the other way of saying that is, “We’ve never done it that way before.”) Model the leadership style you want to see.

Look for the leader inside the person

Like a miner, willing to sift through dirt to find gold, keep on the lookout for these 10 nuggets:

  1. Positiveness – they see work and people in a positive way
  2. Servanthood – they are willing to play team ball and follow
  3. Growth Potential – they are hungry for personal/professional growth
  4. Follow-through – they finish the job
  5. Loyalty – they put the good of the team above their own interests
  6. Resiliency – they bounce back quickly from defeat
  7. Integrity – they are consistent in what they say and what they do
  8. Big Picture Mindset – they see the needs of more than just their team
  9. Discipline – they do what’s needed regardless of mood
  10.  Gratitude Рthey have an overall attitude of gratitude

That last one along with servanthood demonstrate another essential quality – Humility. Humility is not putting yourself down. It’s recognizing the value of others and shining a light on that. When someone steps on others to go up the organization or is always shining the light on themselves, they will never realize their potential as leaders. You can’t lead when people don’t want to work with you.

Provide growth opportunities

Some plants need more water than others. Some need more sunlight. Some plants can’t grow in certain climate zones. For example, we miss lilacs because we live in the central valley of California. We have palm trees which we couldn’t have when we lived in Minnesota, but we can’t have the kind of lilacs we had in Illinois. They won’t thrive here. In a similar way there is no one formula for what growth opportunities your potential leaders need.

I mentioned in my post on “The Law of Addition” that I helped develop a training program for a large Healthcare system in California. We focused the training on three approaches: Education (online, classroom, certifications), Exposure (giving people the opportunity to see leadership in action at the next level), and Experience (giving people a stretch task associated with their next level). The key is tailoring those to the needs of each individual leader you are trying to develop.

Reward production over position

People get caught up in titles and position and in “lanes.” Don’t let them. The truth is a title doesn’t guarantee someone will produce. On the other hand, some of your best producers may not have a corresponding title. When you pay attention to and respond to productivity over title, you may just find that your next VP of Operations is currently an Administrative Assistant in HR. Look for the people who have the qualities mentioned above and who get things done. When people know you value productivity over titles that creates an atmosphere of growth.

The thermostat picture I put with this post shows the ideal situation. The temperature and the thermostat setting are the same. Be a Thermostat.

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