12 May

Mirror, mirror…

Remember the magic mirror in the Snow White fairy tale? Remember how it couldn’t lie?

Mirrors don’t tend to lie.

If we held up a ‘leadership mirror’ in front of you, what would we see? If we held it up to show your team or those you lead, what would we see?

Today we are reflecting on (pun intended!) the mirroring effect of leaders on their followers.

Firstly, what do I mean when I say ‘leader’? A leader in my experience is anyone who is in a position (be it a formal role, or as an informal connection) to influence others to engage in a shared purpose, vision or goal.

Now, we talk about leadership generally as being a positive thing, yet strictly speaking, leaders can have a negative impact – that is, they can influence for negative reasons, lead others toward detrimental goals – there are leaders who use their leadership for bad, rather than good.

At Engaging Potential, we are focusing on the attributes, skills and behaviour of good leaders – striving to be a leader with a positive impact on those around you; striving to be a force for good; striving to meet clearly positive outcomes.

In the workplace, we might be seen as leaders because we manage people or we might be seen as leaders because we have the ability to connect with others and influence action.

Whether your potential to lead is a result of a formal hierarchy, or as an informal influencer, what type of leader are you?

How would you describe your leadership style? (honestly)?

How would others describe your leadership?

You have influence and impact on those around you.

As a leader, you have the ability to create a mirror effect on those around you. Because you have influence, people are wired biologically to monitor your actions, words and attitudes. Whether consciously or non-consciously, those around you are attuned to you and will be influenced by your verbal and non verbal cues. This will often result in them (again consciously, or more often non-consciously) mirroring your actions, words and attitudes.

For example, have you ever been in the situation where your boss – be it a practice principal, a practice manager, or an executive – comes to work clearly in a negative mood, and you find yourself and others become more negative, or in a bad mood as the day goes on? Does this sometimes have an impact on the way you and others deal with patients or clients (perhaps a little less tolerant, for instance)? I call this the ripple effect – the impact a leader has when they – figuratively speaking – drop a mood pebble in the water and it flows out and out.

Of course, the opposite is true as well – when your boss, or an influencer – is inspired, excited or positive. This will ripple out as well.

What type of ripple do you want to create?

If we as leaders are negative, constantly look for the downside and find fault in the smallest of details, then some of our team will be on alert or feel threat (consciously or non-consciously) and in turn may exhibit negative behaviour or comments. And so the ripple starts.

If we as leaders see opportunity in challenges, acknowledge positive efforts and results, provide considered and relevant feedback – even when it’s constructive feedback – and help people feel valued and safe in their interactions with us; then they are less likely to feel under threat and more likely to respond with positive comments, a solutions-focus, and productive attitude. And so the ripple starts.

Humans are designed to read or understand others – they are designed to connect and interact.

Those we interact with – be they team members, colleagues, patients, clients, family, strangers or friends – are intuitively reading your actions and words, no matter how subtle.

If we have influence with these people – through hierarchy, position or relationship – they may very well be followers of our behaviours. And as followers, they may mirror our behaviours.

Would you be proud of the behaviours others see and mirror from you?

The key message here:

  • As a leader, you can influence the behaviours of others through your own actions.
  • Those around you may be influenced (consciously or non-consciously) by what you portray.
  • Others may mirror your behaviours and attitudes, leading to a ripple effect with those they deal with.

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