Follow the leader

follow-the-leaderDo you remember playing the children’s game where you had to watch closely and follow every move and action the leader took? One misstep and you were out! Reinforcing the new normal in a change effort works the same way.

William Bridges, in his classic book Managing Transitions describes it like this – “you have one reliable point of leverage…… the example of your own behavior.” As the leader, you are being watched closely by your people and they will follow your moves more than your words. At MnSCU, as a part of our Charting the Future strategy, we are working to become a more collaborative higher education system across our 31 colleges and universities. The real-life examples of leaders working collaboratively on the eight implementation teams demonstrates what collaboration looks like and reinforces collaboration as the new normal in the day-to-day work of staff and faculty at each college or university.

Alternatively, when leaders go “off-course” and don’t consistently reinforce the new normal it is human nature for everyone else to follow them, even if they know better. I was a course marshal at the Twin Cities Marathon this past weekend and saw an example of that. During the 10 mile run the lead car missed a turn and all the elite runners followed the car off-course. They knew the correct route, yet in the stress of the moment they just “followed the leader.”  Lucky for them they were able to get back on course after just two blocks! Where are you leading your people?

Taking the time to purposely and consistently demonstrate the behaviors and actions you want to see in your people will help them gain confidence and comfort in the new normal.

Example is not the main thing in influencing others; it’s the only thing. – Albert Schweitzer, French Philosopher and Physician

Todd Thorsgaard



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