Thermostats and Thermometers – Effective Leadership Changes the Climate

Thermostats-and-Thermometers-Effective-Leadership-Change-the-Climate-Todd-NielsenOften paraphrased as “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” Mohandas Gandhi actually wrote:“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” (Vol. 13, Ch. 153, page 241)

Put another way, we might say that leadership is concerned not with being a thermometer, but with being a thermostat. Our primary interest is not just reporting the temperature – but in exerting influence and encouragement in order to change the temperature.

Just as a thermostat must have an accurate thermometer, a leader must be able to honestly assess the current state of the organization in order to make corrections to the environment. However like a thermostat, a leader must also outline the steps necessary to change the climate of the organization toward the preferred future.

As leaders, it’s important that our own attitudes, actions, and words are consistent with this preferred vision of the future. Even though the preferred future is not yet reality, we must live as though it is coming true day by day. As we do this, team members begin to catch the vision, and it not only guides our future – but the present as well. Rarely does this happen all at once, and the wise leader learns to celebrate each baby step toward the goal.

Consequently, change within an organization begins at the top. A leader must not only see the current state of the organization, but have the vision to see the desired future. With that vision in mind, the leader executes the steps necessary to change the culture, and begins to communicate expectations to the team members.

A leader must not only see the current state of the organization, but have the vision to see the desired future. ~ Tweet this!

Instead of merely mirroring the status quo, or getting caught up in the negative aspects of the environment, wise leaders take to heart those words of Gandhi, that by changing oneself – we thereby change the attitudes of the world around us.

What are some of the ways you have seen a leader move from being a thermometer to being a thermostat? What are some of the steps you take toward changing the culture of your organization?

About Todd Nielsen

Todd Nielsen helps organizations create miracles of success and profitability through the power of execution. Having served as Vice-President, President, Chief Operations Officer, and Chief Executive Officer of organizations, he has learned how to create a culture that "Gets Things Done." He is passionate about leadership, and is a dynamic and inspirational speaker.

Comments

  1. Deborah Crayton says:

    Enjoyed the article tremendously. It was truly food for thought. Change comes from the inside out. The leader definitely has to lead by example demonstrating the vision he/she has in mind.

  2. Thanks for the interesting article Todd. It got me thinking about myself as a thermostat. In doing so, I started asking myself the question, what happens if I am a thermostat on the wrong appliance? Then I may be exerting influence and encouragement in order to change the temperature in the wrong place! Just a thought…

    • That is a good thought Kimunya. I tend to think that positive change in any place is usually a good thing, although one’s energies will definitely be taxed if we do not focus on the place that needs the most attention. Of course Aristotle said, “Change in all things is sweet.”

  3. Interesting how the same subjects can lead to different thoughts!

    http://www.exploreb2b.com/articles/are-you-a-thermometer-or-a-thermostat

  4. Great article. I love the title! You are so accurate. We often teach leaders to be the thermometer and NOT the thermostat. Time to change the game!

  5. Thanks for the article Todd. Enjoyed it.
    Joe

  6. Hi Todd,

    I’ve been unconsciously doing this for a while this year and has been key for implementing improvements:

    “Even though the preferred future is not yet reality, we must live as though it is coming true day by day. ”

    And always working on celebrating the baby steps towards the goal. Very difficult that the journey takes a long time!

    Thanks for this, have a great Monday,

    -m

Trackbacks

  1. […] Often paraphrased as “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” Mohandas Gandhi actually wrote:“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body.  […]

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  3. […] Trust: The Currency Of LeadershipForbesThe other day, a colleague invited me to teach a session in a leadership development program he was running for 30 senior executives from one of our client organizations.  […]

  4. […] Every leader must be aware of their organizations current status. He must be empathetic to everyones needs and goals and have the vision to guide others to the future.  […]

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