Leadership and the Law of Replication

My dad was injured in the Korean War, a few years before I was born. As a result of that injury, he walks with a limp. As a young boy, I unconsciously emulated him. I just thought that was the way grown men walked.

Leadership and the Law of Replication

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/JLBarranco

When I was about three or four, I remember my Mom saying to me, “Michael, you don’t need to walk with a limp. Dad walks that way because he was hurt in the war.” Regardless, I still walked with a limp for another year or so, simply because I wanted to be like my dad.This was the “law of replication” in action. This law says that like begets like. Dogs beget dogs. Trees beget trees. And people beget people.

This law also applies to leadership. Like it or not, you will replicate yourself. Your followers will adopt your behaviors, habits, and—if you have a strong personality— even your mannerisms.

Years ago, I remember visiting one of our authors at his corporate headquarters. I was amused to see his staff imitating him, down to the cadence of his speech and the inflection of his voice. It was as if they were paid impersonators.

This has powerful implications for leadership. Unconsciously, your people will mimic you. This means:

  • If you are late to meetings, your people will be late to meetings.
  • If you don’t take notes in meetings, your people won’t take notes in meetings.
  • If you are angry and defensive when you get negative feedback, your people will be angry and defensive when they get negative feedback.

Conversely:

  • If you are humble and grateful, your people will be humble and grateful.
  • If you are warm and engaging, your people will be warm and engaging.
  • If you are even-tempered and unflinching under fire, your people will be even-tempered and unflinching under fire.

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I would add, “Be the change you want to see in your organization.” If you don’t like the culture of your department, division, or company, start by changing yourself. Set a new standard. Let your word become flesh. This is the most powerful thing you can do to change your world.

The bottom line is that you are the prototype for your followers. Your actions speak louder than words. You must pay careful attention to your own behavior. You are a living example of what it takes to go to the next level. You will replicate yourself.

Question: If your people imitated you in everything you do, would you be happy with their performance? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://www.faughnfamily.com/ Adam Faughn

    Love this post. How many kids emulate the batting, throwing, or shooting motion of a favorite athlete over and over in the backyard? Parents and leaders should see that simple illustration that we all look up and emulate people. Are we giving them a good picture to emulate? That’s always the question.

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  • Ian Eccles

    Very practical and on point.  Whether coaching, leading or teaching this advice is priceless.

  • Rick Smith

    BRAVO, Michael. 

  • Nathan

    Very true. Some of us probably grew up around poor examples and struggle with overcoming the replications that exist in us as a result. Another lesson in this… be careful who you follow.

  • Soumangue Basse

    Great post Mike. I would have said no a few weeks ago now.  But since getting focused and reenergized the last couple of days, I would say yes now.  Do my best to “crush it” in 2013

  • Belovediam7

    Oh wow!! What you have discussed here is completely true. Leadership is a lifetime lifestyle, and I am surely learning  a lot about it from you, Thank you Mr. Hyatt. God bless you.

  • Carina Pilar

    This is so true, I had a boss with some not so good habits, and his team got this, and was so distressful to see he didn’t know what to do, and because of that he keep being worse and his team keep following this bad line…

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  • http://www.chancescoggins.com/ chance

    I LOVE this post!  “Let your word become flesh.”  That sent shivers down my spine. Powerful writing!  Thank you for this post…and my family thanks you, too.

  • Draco24433

    If people imitated me, things would probably be very different and efficient but I have realized that no matter how worthy you are of being imitated, not everyone will follow. To me that is the greatest challenge and look forward to it.

  • Pavan_Ramdasi

    Well Out of my own experience I see people replicating the “easy to pick things” or lets say the ” cool to impersonate” tricks. I agree that a leaders habits of Discipline, Attention to detail etc are very important to the subordinates to emulate.

    The secret however is to understand the reasons behind it and also to give the same conviction as the leader does it with.

    This definitely will take them a long way.

  • http://www.nathanmagnuson.com/ Nathan Magnuson

    That’s a great post, Michael. Mannerisms and lingo are some of the easiest things to pick up, no matter if you are 3 or 30! Let’s hope my followers pick up my leadership mannerisms as well.

  • Joey Phillippi

    Michael, awesome post!  Your visual of showing your raw, pure, and true love for your father as a child, through the extra year of holding onto the limp was very powerful and emotional.  I strive to be a better model of myself every day and pray this creates empowerment in those around me to do the same.  I am aware I sometime have negative moments and down days, but I try to stop them as soon as I realize it is happening.  I am still human though so everything doesn’t go as plan.  I strive to learn from lessons I live through and not repeat them.  Actions are where people see your true worth.  I want to be the richest person I know due to my action’s values.  Spread love, change the world, and help women become confident in their skin.  I have a lot to improve, learn, and grow, and as long as you’re breathing, so do you.  Keep up the great work!  Looking forward to the next insightful post and/or podcast Michael.  Have a great day!      

    • Jim Martin

      Joey, I like what you say about realizing that you have “negative moments and down days.”  You attempt to stop them as soon as you realize what is happening.  I really like this.  It is so easy to rationalize instead of stopping the behavior.  (Especially true in the heat of the moment.)  Thanks! 

  • harrisonwilder

    So true.  My grandfather had a stiff knee and I still catch myself sticking my leg straight out when I cross my legs!  I know I can’t always model perfection.  This week I was mean to someone because I was annoyed.  I apologized the next day and renewed my commitment to show honor and respect for others, no matter how I feel.  Hopefully when I’m not perfect I can model enough respect for mankind to apologize.  That way if they don’t turn out perfect, at least they’ll know how to make things right.

    • Jim Martin

      Great point.  You model integrity as you take responsible for your own behavior and then apologize when it is called for. A very good reminder.  Thank! 

  • Sharon

    A totally humbling and punch in the stomach question….thank you for the reminder…as a parent and a leader in my business. Every day is work in progress… Thanks Michael. Yeah, I should have it on my desk and wall…

  • Russ Bergeman

    This article discusses a relatively
    obvious observation, but one that is often ignored, intentionally or
    unintentionally. The basic premise is that followers tend to replicate the
    behavior of their leaders. The premise makes sense and any of us with any
    experience in an organization will have undoubtedly observed this happening.

     

    The fact that it is human nature to want
    to imitate those in leadership positions brings up two interesting dilemmas;
    both revolve around the responsibility associated with being a leader.

     

    The first responsibility is to monitor and,
    ultimately, model positive behavior, especially the behavior that is expected
    from members of the organization. It is difficult to hold someone responsible
    and correct negative behavior that the boss is exhibiting.

     

    Second, a boss needs to be careful not
    to confuse performance with reflection. It is human nature to be drawn to
    people with similar tastes, attitudes, actions, etc. When a leader rewards only
    those who act like him or her there is a risk that the actions of those who are
    just as effective and productive within the organization may be ignored. There
    is no better way to run a good employee away from an organization than to ignore
    him or her in favor of someone whose only advantage is the replication of the
    leader.

     

    Replication of a leader’s actions
    requires responsibility from both the leader and the follower. It is also
    important to keep this in mind as a responsible leader.

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  • http://www.whiteboardbusiness.com/ Dallon Christensen

    As I was reading this post, I thought about all of the times I have lost my temper or have said something I shouldn’t have said. Is it any wonder why my two boys occasionally lose their temper?

    Physician, heal thyself. :)

  • Robbie

    I find that being straight and honest with people is one of my better qualities that I hope might be imitated.

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  • http://www.robsorbo.com/p/welcome-from-disqus.html Rob Sorbo

    I had an interesting experience with this recently. I learned a trait from my dad that I’ve since learned that many people find incredibly irritating. Finally, after being married for about three years, my wife was sick of it so she told me about that trait and asked me to change, which I’ve been trying to do. However, a friend of mine has a very similar trait, and over and over again I find myself getting angry at her because of it.

    What I’ve come to realize is that I was blind about that trait in myself, but I found myself really irritated by it when others do it. Proof that we don’t always even realize what we’re doing, even when we see it in others.

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      Great example, Rob.  Kudos to you for doing the important work of recognizing what needs to change.

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  • Bhorvath77

    Michael, thanks so much for sharing this post. I appreciate the fact that leaders follow their leaders yet I am at a place where I want to clean up some of my mistakes and win back some church ministry volunteers who I may have challenged a little too far regarding our vision statement. What’s the best way to acknowledge their hurts, apologize to them and thank them while encouraging their continued service& stopping the vision leak? I appreciate you and your wisdom, Michael!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      I think you actually just outlined the steps: Acknowledge their hurts, apologize to them, encourage their service and support.

  • FourHourLeader

    This is an “eye opener” for many. Sometimes we simply tend to forget that it all starts with us. As a consequence, blaming others for problems is often a true time waster. We should learn to look to ourselves first to find solutions that change how we influence others.

    Giuseppe

    @4hourleader:disqus  fourhourleader.wordpress.com

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  • http://www.RayToenniessen.com/ Ray

    I think attitude is one of the biggest pieces of this. I always try to remember that the “attitude reflects leadership.” It’s amazing how you can turn an environment around as a leader just by changing your attitude, because it too will be replicated. Great thoughts!

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  • http://joewickman.com/ Joe Wickman

    “Like it or not, you will replicate yourself. ”
    Sometimes I haven’t liked what I’ve produced. After being exposed to a variety of leaders, I am glad that I have experienced each of their leadership styles. I hope I am emulating health that will cause me to like what I see when my actions and attitudes are replicated.
    Thank you!

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  • Chuskeybrooks

    Thank you for that reminder
    No matter where you are in life
    Someone is alongside of you-
    Make that impact positive and with a smile
    So they can be uplifted, whatever season their life Is in. WE ALL CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

  • http://twitter.com/theule Chris Theule-VanDam

    This is true, unless the leader is not trusted.  Then people will do the opposite.

  • Ananya Das

    Well said !

    Have a look at my similar post  : 

    http://leadership-mantra.blogspot.in/2012/06/echo-effect.html