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The Trickle-Down Effect of Good (and Bad) Leadership

Emotions are contagious. If you have a friend that is around you that is exuding happiness, the probability that you too will be happy rises by a surprising 25 percent. Behaviors additionally are contagious. So how much do “social contagions” actually impact leaders? In an article for Harvard Business Review, Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman analyze just that.

The Viral Connection

In order to answer this contagious question, they analyzed assessments of high-level managers and their mid-level managers. Two hundred and sixty-five pairs of high and mid-level managers were matched, and it was revealed that a significant correlation existed between behaviors. There were 51 specific behaviors tested, and 30 of them had a significant correlation. Those behaviors that had the highest correlations include: developing self and others, technical skills, strategy skills, consideration, integrity, and decisiveness.

Performance also appeared to be impacted by social influences. High-level managers performed worse when they had poor performance from those who reported directly to them. The reverse effect was also true, and good performance inspired better performance.

Zenger and Folkman were also curious to uncover what the implications were like further down the chain of command. They analyzed high-level managers’ scores against their mid-level managers’ scores and then looked at the scores of those reporting to the mid-level managers. This test revealed that a high-level manager doing a poor job not only impacts their mid-level managers, but also those who report to the mid-level and so on. If the high-level manager is a great boss engaging in admirable behaviors, then those under them all the way down the chain of command are affected positively and work better.

If you are a leader, or even just someone with a meager title, wondering if you are making any sort of impact in your organization, the answer is yes. Exude positivity and great behavior and you will see your organization blossom into success. You can read the original article here: https://hbr.org/2016/01/the-trickle-down-effect-of-good-and-bad-leadership

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