In my prior post I touched on a concept described to me by an M.D. psychiatrist, Dr. Dave Krueger, as mirroring. To refresh, Dr. Krueger explained to me that our greatest motivation as humans is to be effective … in other words, to achieve mastery. So … where does our ownership of mastery come from? It comes from leaders. When leaders, ideally executives we hold in high esteem, reflect back to us there validation (approval) we “belong”- and that innate human need is fulfilled.
Looking back at my July 25 “reflections”, I mentioned two stories from my youth … the second-grade teacher’s approval and my high school track coach’s acknowledgment of my work ethic and effort. Both instances involve them reflecting on a level of performance and behavior … in effect, a degree of mastery that pleased them.
Is validation from those held in high esteem the timeless key to leadership influence? I think so. In my Heart Matters work I adhere to the concept that an organization’s culture is like a compass … and the leader’s heart is a reflection of True North.
I’m conscious of “if things are true, they are timeless”. How do leaders influence culture? One way is to teach and validate mastery. Here’s a story relating to the “timeless” that landed in my email inbox this week.
At Valley Forge in 1777-1778, George Washington despaired about his ill fed, ill clothed and ill armed “army”. The foregoing abstract of Ed Ruggero’s more detailed piece confirmed how validation shapes culture. A new Prussian immigrant army officer, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm de Steuben, through translators, convinced Washington to let him teach the ragtag group to march. He argued that the discipline of marching and drilling would spill over into other areas. He started with a small group. Ruggero’s story concludes “de Steuben influenced the officers to pay better attention to their men”.
Leaders influence culture by acknowledging or accepting desired behaviors. The Valley Forge story posed the principle of added discipline, as in following orders like “forward march” or “dress-right-dress”. Today, in our organizations we label it “change management”. In addition perhaps the practice of drill of Valley Forge had a purpose similar to basic training where bonds are fostered and esprit de corps is forged. The attention of officers – held in high esteem – to teach and train is reciprocated … or reflected back, mirrored if you will … and mastery is experienced. I never thought of it this way but leaders should broadcast those behaviors and priorities that they are passionate about. De Steuben was passionate about discipline and esprit de corps. In effect, he decided drilling and marching could be mastered even when starting-out morale was destined for defeat.
Timeless? Walt Disney was passionate about “fun”. Howard Shultz is passionate about “community”. Herb Kelleher is passionate about low-cost. Their cultures are a reflection of their passions … their hearts … because they pay attention to and validate behaviors and results that mirror their passions and beliefs.