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.

A Father Teaching His Son to Golf - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/JLBarranco, Image #7322238

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/JLBarranco

When I was about three or four, I remember my Mom saying to me, “Mike, 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.

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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.

Ghandi 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.

As St. Seraphim of Sarov said, “Save yourself and you will save a thousand.”

If your people imitated you in everything you do, would you be happy with their performance? What needs to change in your own behavior, so that you ensure that their behavior is congruent with your deepest values? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://fireandhammer.blogspot.com/ Dennis

    Thank you for this reminder.

    For the past several years I struggled with anger and bitterness and may have been depressed. Last year the Lord worked to heal me and set me free. With my eyes now open I can see how my struggles set a negative tone in my family. Now I understand that my first morning interaction with each member of my family has a huge impact on how their day will go. As husband and father I am best seen by how my family reflects my mood during the day.

  • http://fireandhammer.blogspot.com/ Dennis

    Thank you for this reminder.

    For the past several years I struggled with anger and bitterness and may have been depressed. Last year the Lord worked to heal me and set me free. With my eyes now open I can see how my struggles set a negative tone in my family. Now I understand that my first morning interaction with each member of my family has a huge impact on how their day will go. As husband and father I am best seen by how my family reflects my mood during the day.

  • http://fireandhammer.blogspot.com Dennis

    Thank you for this reminder.

    For the past several years I struggled with anger and bitterness and may have been depressed. Last year the Lord worked to heal me and set me free. With my eyes now open I can see how my struggles set a negative tone in my family. Now I understand that my first morning interaction with each member of my family has a huge impact on how their day will go. As husband and father I am best seen by how my family reflects my mood during the day.

  • http://www.healthyspirituality.org/ Jean Wise

    I read years ago that Abraham Lincoln said, "The organization takes on the personality of the person at the top." At the time I was head of our county health department, so took that advice seriously. Whether it is a big company, a small business or home with the family, it is amazingly powerful what one positive attitude can do to change the environment's mood.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That is a great quote from Abraham Lincoln. Thank you!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That is a great quote from Abraham Lincoln. Thank you!

  • http://www.healthyspirituality.org Jean Wise

    I read years ago that Abraham Lincoln said, "The organization takes on the personality of the person at the top." At the time I was head of our county health department, so took that advice seriously. Whether it is a big company, a small business or home with the family, it is amazingly powerful what one positive attitude can do to change the environment's mood.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That is a great quote from Abraham Lincoln. Thank you!

  • http://www.RonEdmondson.com/ Ron Edmondson

    This is so incredibly true. I have seen this law work for good and for bad. Great reminder. Thanks for sharing.

    Great story about imitating your dad also.
    Ron

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Ron.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Ron.

  • http://www.RonEdmondson.com/ Ron Edmondson

    This is so incredibly true. I have seen this law work for good and for bad. Great reminder. Thanks for sharing.

    Great story about imitating your dad also.
    Ron

  • http://www.RonEdmondson.com Ron Edmondson

    This is so incredibly true. I have seen this law work for good and for bad. Great reminder. Thanks for sharing.

    Great story about imitating your dad also.
    Ron

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Ron.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    Very true Mike.

    I wrote about the same phenomenon on the Make Difference To One website the other day referring to how our children learn more by watching and imitating us than they do by what we say.

    Of course, you have said it much more eloquently! :-)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    Very true Mike.

    I wrote about the same phenomenon on the Make Difference To One website the other day referring to how our children learn more by watching and imitating us than they do by what we say.

    Of course, you have said it much more eloquently! :-)

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    Very true, Mike.

    I wrote about the same phenomenon on the Make Difference To One website the other day referring to how our children learn more by watching and imitating us than they do by what we say.

    Of course, you have said it much more eloquently! :-)

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    Very true, Mike.

    I wrote about the same phenomenon on the Make Difference To One website the other day referring to how our children learn more by watching and imitating us than they do by what we say.

    Of course, you have said it much more eloquently! :-)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    Very true Mike.

    I wrote about the same phenomenon on the Make Difference To One website the other day referring to how our children learn more by watching and imitating us than they do by what we say.

    Of course, you have said it much more eloquently! :-)

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/Peter_P Peter_P

    Very true, Mike.

    I wrote about the same phenomenon on the Make Difference To One website the other day referring to how our children learn more by watching and imitating us than they do by what we say.

    Of course, you have said it much more eloquently! :-)

  • http://www.jeffmillerthinks.com/ Jeff Miller

    I had a friend who went to another country to speak to a group of leaders. He had to take "prop plan" for the last leg of the trip, when he got off the plane the wind blew his tie over his shoulder. Arriving at the venue he noticed all the men had thier ties over their shoulders,copying something that happened accidentally. People immulate what they see for sure.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That is a great story!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That is a great story!

  • http://www.jeffmillerthinks.com/ Jeff Miller

    I had a friend who went to another country to speak to a group of leaders. He had to take "prop plan" for the last leg of the trip, when he got off the plane the wind blew his tie over his shoulder. Arriving at the venue he noticed all the men had thier ties over their shoulders,copying something that happened accidentally. People immulate what they see for sure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shannahall Shanna Hall

    I quoted Gandhi in my post this morning also, same quote, different topic, same perspective.

    I like your post. It opens up some things that I never thought would be key players in the success or failure of an organization/family based purely on the leader. Does it make you rethink the "there is no I in team" mantra? One may even add that the Law of Attraction plays a large role here too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/shannahall Shanna Hall

    I quoted Gandhi in my post this morning also, same quote, different topic, same perspective.

    I like your post. It opens up some things that I never thought would be key players in the success or failure of an organization/family based purely on the leader. Does it make you rethink the "there is no I in team" mantra? One may even add that the Law of Attraction plays a large role here too.

  • http://www.jeffmillerthinks.com Jeff Miller

    I had a friend who went to another country to speak to a group of leaders. He had to take "prop plan" for the last leg of the trip, when he got off the plane the wind blew his tie over his shoulder. Arriving at the venue he noticed all the men had thier ties over their shoulders,copying something that happened accidentally. People immulate what they see for sure.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      That is a great story!

  • http://www.facebook.com/shannahall Shanna Hall

    I quoted Gandhi in my post this morning also, same quote, different topic, same perspective.

    I like your post. It opens up some things that I never thought would be key players in the success or failure of an organization/family based purely on the leader. Does it make you rethink the "there is no I in team" mantra? One may even add that the Law of Attraction plays a large role here too.

  • PierG

    Go first and lead be example: well written!

    PierG

    http://pierg.wordpress.com

  • PierG

    Go first and lead be example: well written!

    PierG

    http://pierg.wordpress.com

  • PierG

    Go first and lead be example: well written!

    PierG

    http://pierg.wordpress.com

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Redfern Redfern

    Thank you for this noteworthy post of leadership. As an educator and parent, it is important to recognize that everyone . . . everyone . . . is a leader of someone. As your dad indirectly led you to 'limp', so too, our children are watching, other parents are watching, as we live out our faith in our daily lives. I appreciate the encouragement that says: transformation of my family, my classroom or the organizations I am part of, truly begins with me.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yep, I agree. If leadership is influence, then everyone is a leader!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yep, I agree. If leadership is influence, then everyone is a leader!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Redfern Redfern

    Thank you for this noteworthy post of leadership. As an educator and parent, it is important to recognize that everyone . . . everyone . . . is a leader of someone. As your dad indirectly led you to 'limp', so too, our children are watching, other parents are watching, as we live out our faith in our daily lives. I appreciate the encouragement that says: transformation of my family, my classroom or the organizations I am part of, truly begins with me.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Redfern Redfern

    Thank you for this noteworthy post of leadership. As an educator and parent, it is important to recognize that everyone . . . everyone . . . is a leader of someone. As your dad indirectly led you to 'limp', so too, our children are watching, other parents are watching, as we live out our faith in our daily lives. I appreciate the encouragement that says: transformation of my family, my classroom or the organizations I am part of, truly begins with me.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yep, I agree. If leadership is influence, then everyone is a leader!

  • http://Building-His-Body.blogspot.com/ Anne Lang Bundy

    I've yet to find bad behavior in my children which does not mirror their parents. God's declaration of sin being visited "to the third and fourth generation" motivates me more than anything else to avoid sin.

    And in that, as in everything else one might call His curse, I find blessing.

  • http://Building-His-Body.blogspot.com/ Anne Lang Bundy

    I've yet to find bad behavior in my children which does not mirror their parents. God's declaration of sin being visited "to the third and fourth generation" motivates me more than anything else to avoid sin.

    And in that, as in everything else one might call His curse, I find blessing.

  • http://Building-His-Body.blogspot.com Anne Lang Bundy

    I've yet to find bad behavior in my children which does not mirror their parents. God's declaration of sin being visited "to the third and fourth generation" motivates me more than anything else to avoid sin.

    And in that, as in everything else one might call His curse, I find blessing.

  • http://www.lynnrush.com/ LynnRush

    Great post. So often we don't think about how our actions impact others around us. Thanks for the reminder.

  • http://www.lynnrush.com LynnRush

    Great post. So often we don't think about how our actions impact others around us. Thanks for the reminder.

  • http://www.firmfamilytree.com/ Marvin

    I notice this a lot with my kids — I love to read and they've picked up a love for books as well. Unfortunately, they've also picked up my tendency to clutter.

  • http://www.firmfamilytree.com/ Marvin

    I notice this a lot with my kids — I love to read and they've picked up a love for books as well. Unfortunately, they've also picked up my tendency to clutter.

  • http://www.firmfamilytree.com Marvin

    I notice this a lot with my kids — I love to read and they've picked up a love for books as well. Unfortunately, they've also picked up my tendency to clutter.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/KNicholls KNicholls

    Thank you so much for this today. It was a reminder I needed and one I have written about on my blog as a reminder for others.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/KNicholls KNicholls

    Thank you so much for this today. It was a reminder I needed and one I have written about on my blog as a reminder for others.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/KNicholls KNicholls

    Thank you so much for this today. It was a reminder I needed and one I have written about on my blog as a reminder for others.

  • http://twitter.com/AudraKrell @AudraKrell

    Back in '99 I became a certified walking and posture expert. In our studies, we found that most men walk exactly like their fathers. Grown men have spent a lifetime with poor posture and phantom injuries that mimic their fathers. Your example is fascinating, and thank goodness your mother saw right through your old war injury!
    The truth is we live what we think we know. We must be intentional and honest about the "things we know and live out."
    Great post.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Wow, I had no idea. But it makes sense. Thanks for sharing this.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Wow, I had no idea. But it makes sense. Thanks for sharing this.

  • http://twitter.com/AudraKrell @AudraKrell

    Back in '99 I became a certified walking and posture expert. In our studies, we found that most men walk exactly like their fathers. Grown men have spent a lifetime with poor posture and phantom injuries that mimic their fathers. Your example is fascinating, and thank goodness your mother saw right through your old war injury!
    The truth is we live what we think we know. We must be intentional and honest about the "things we know and live out."
    Great post.

  • http://twitter.com/AudraKrell @AudraKrell

    Back in '99 I became a certified walking and posture expert. In our studies, we found that most men walk exactly like their fathers. Grown men have spent a lifetime with poor posture and phantom injuries that mimic their fathers. Your example is fascinating, and thank goodness your mother saw right through your old war injury!
    The truth is we live what we think we know. We must be intentional and honest about the "things we know and live out."
    Great post.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Wow, I had no idea. But it makes sense. Thanks for sharing this.

  • http://www.gotbiz.tv/lessons-in-leadership Jessica

    Great leadership advice! Thanks!

  • http://www.gotbiz.tv/lessons-in-leadership Jessica

    Great leadership advice! Thanks!

  • http://www.gotbiz.tv/lessons-in-leadership Jessica

    Great leadership advice! Thanks!

  • http://chadmbarrett.com/ Chad Barrett

    I wanted to add my thanks to the others in this post. I have noticed this in a number of situations over the years. This works – both in the right direction and in the wrong direction.

  • http://chadmbarrett.com/ Chad Barrett

    I wanted to add my thanks to the others in this post. I have noticed this in a number of situations over the years. This works – both in the right direction and in the wrong direction.

  • http://chadmbarrett.com Chad Barrett

    I wanted to add my thanks to the others in this post. I have noticed this in a number of situations over the years. This works – both in the right direction and in the wrong direction.

  • http://donnafrank.blogspot.com/ Donna Frank

    This is a great post to follow Andy Stanley's 'direction, not intention, determines your destination'. I have found in my own life that I am more apt to do what my leader does rather than to do what they say…whether I mean to or not.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yep, that's why I think it is pretty much a law. Thanks for your comment!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yep, that's why I think it is pretty much a law. Thanks for your comment!

  • http://donnafrank.blogspot.com/ Donna Frank

    This is a great post to follow Andy Stanley's 'direction, not intention, determines your destination'. I have found in my own life that I am more apt to do what my leader does rather than to do what they say…whether I mean to or not.

  • http://donnafrank.blogspot.com Donna Frank

    This is a great post to follow Andy Stanley's 'direction, not intention, determines your destination'. I have found in my own life that I am more apt to do what my leader does rather than to do what they say…whether I mean to or not.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yep, that's why I think it is pretty much a law. Thanks for your comment!