Are You a Predictable Leader?

Some events are very predictable.

When I was a kid, one of the surest signs that I was ready to catch some grief from my mom was her not-so-subtle inclusion of my middle name when she summoned me hither:


When I was in school, I could usually tell that I was in trouble when the teacher would add the formal-sounding “Mister” in front of my last name.

“Mr. Carbonara. So glad you could join us. I’m sorry if my lecture disturbed your nap!”

(ironically, all of the girls I chased in school were called by a similarly formal-sounding “Miss” in front of their own last names. Weird, huh?)

In the history dating, the phrase “We have to talk” has never signaled the beginning of a big, fat, happy surprise like: “KNOW WHAT? I GOT US FIRST CLASS ROUND TRIP TICKETS TO PARIS!” No. “We have to talk” is code for “I”m breaking up with you. You just need to shut up and listen.”

And some leaders are very predictable, too.

If you’re in management, what do your employees think when you send an email or leave a voice mail asking to meet? If the first response of your employee is–

“Crap. I’m in trouble”…

there’s a good chance that you’re a BOSS, not a LEADER. 

Be predictable for doing the RIGHT things.

Here are 4 tips for making sure that your employees don’t predict that seeing you is a sure sign that there is a problem and that something has gone terrible wrong:

Increase the Positive/Negative ratio in Your Interactions

Researcher Marcial Losada found that people tend to flourish when they receive at least 2.9013 positive interactions for each 1 negative interaction. Increased positive interaction is not only good for aiding employee engagement at work, but it’s also good at home. Researcher John Gottman (1994) found that flourishing marriages have a Positive/Negative ratio of 5.1, while marriages that end up in divorce have a Positive/Negative ratio of 0.77.

Increase Positive Face Time.

If you wear the perpetually foul expression on your face like you just caught a whiff of a rendering plant, perhaps you should keep your face covered and rely on sending out positive emails. Otherwise, walk around the office, making eye contact with your folks. Stop by “just to say ‘Hello.'” By increasing the amount of positive face time with your employees, you condition them to expect to see you and associate you with positive, pleasant things.

A smile, a thumbs up sign, and a wink (of the non-sexual harassment variety) goes much further than annual “Attaboy” events like anniversary or birthday lunches.

Strive to Start Each Morning Positively.

Determine to make your first appearance in the office each morning more like “MAKING AN ENTRANCE.” If you wish to be considered a leader, realize that you set the tone for those around you. If you walk into the office looking overwrought before you even sit down, your apparent stress and anxiety spreads like a bad smell in a confined space. Make up your mind to walk into the office like it’s your aim to have a positively contagious attitude that day. Have a face that says, “I’m so excited to be here!” Carry a warmth that you share with others that says, “I’m so glad that you’re here, too!”

Remember that Your Leaders are People, Too.

Some leaders mistakenly think that the only people in the office needing positive reinforcement, encouragement, and warmth are hourly employees. They act as though professional and management employees don’t need “all that soft stuff” because they get paid a good deal of money to show up and suck it up.

Those leaders are dead wrong. We all need positive reinforcement. We never make so much money, or obtain such a high status, title, or level that we become immune to the simple joy, comfort, and acceptance that’s conveyed when someone who matters to us says something like, “You did a really nice job, and I’m proud of you.” If you lead managers, be the leader who nurtures them and makes them feel valued.


If you wish to be predictable and have a reputation for true leadership, be known for how you encourage and edify others.

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