Derek is Globoforce’s Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting

Recognise This! – Leaders do more than lead. Managers do more than manage. They must also demonstrate your desired culture and values daily in everything they do.

I’ve been thinking about leaders and managers lately, with my thoughts running the gamut from “Where have all the good ones gone?” to “Are we expecting too much of them?” to “What exactly are we expecting of leaders/managers in the workplace today?”

These topics are top-of-mind for me because with companies and clients I work with, we’re trying to do something different. We want to help them create a new culture of recognition, not just another employee recognition and rewards scheme. And to do that – true, fundamental, culture change – requires managers being 100% behind the effort and change management principles.

Chris Edmonds, an author and strategic thinker I respect greatly, said this on the topic in his Cool Culture blog:

“Wouldn’t it be great to have an authentically ‘friendly’ work place? Does your organisational culture provide a courteous, safe, inspiring environment where people thrive, where work gets done, customers are wow’ed daily, and stakeholders are equally thrilled?

“Creation of a truly friendly work environment for ALL staff, from senior leaders to front line employees, does not happen casually. It happens only when senior leaders are intentional about their corporate culture, when they place equal emphasis on performance AND values demonstration.”

Creating that kind of workplace environment – one in which employees will naturally want to engage, I argue – is reliant on managers taking on the true leadership role inherent in their position. And research backs this up. An article in Fast Company that’s making the rounds lately, reported on this:

“Emotions are contagious. The more people we see expressing a particular feeling, the more likely we are to adopt it ourselves, amplifying it in the process. …

“In a series of experiments published in Motivation and Emotion, we found that simply placing participants in the same room as a highly motivated individual improved their motivation and enhanced their performance. But when we paired participants with a less motivated individual, their motivation dwindled and their performance dropped.

“Surprisingly, when we asked participants if their performance had been influenced by the person working in their room, they said absolutely not. The effect had, in other words, occurred unconsciously.

“We call this motivational synchronicity and argue that it’s a byproduct of the way our brains have evolved. By unconsciously mimicking the motivation of those around us, we better relate to one another—a useful habit in the evolutionary past, when belonging to a group could mean the difference between life and death.”

So, we need leaders to lead. We need them to demonstrate through their own behaviours what is acceptable and desirable in this new culture we’re trying to create.

But managers/leaders are human, a reality Trish McFarlane  pointed out brilliantly in a recent post on her HR Ringleader blog:

“The misconception is that all leaders are strong. The truth is that leaders have moments of weakness and doubt like everyone else, they just dig deep and find a way to step up to the risk or challenge and set the tone to keep everyone else calm and on target.

“So today, if you reflect on leaders you have admired in your career, I think you’ll see that they were not always strong.  They had moments of doubt and times where there was not a clear path to follow.  They were able to overcome those fears though and be someone other people could look to for guidance and stability.”

And that’s the key point. When you’re looking for the person to promote into that leadership or managerial position, don’t look purely at skills or past performance as individual contributor. Look especially for those who can rise above in times of stress and fear and doubt to live your culture so that those who follow them can do the same.