Leaders Can Change the Weather

Posted 11.17.2010

Lately, I’ve been in a lot of conversations with leaders about what’s different about moving into more senior and visible executive roles.  One guy in a group last week summed it up by saying, “I change the weather.”  When I asked him to explain, he said he’s been noticing that his team and extended organization take their cues from him and reflect whatever he’s projecting.  If his outlook is sunny and bright, the organization is sunny and bright.  If his outlook is stormy and cloudy, the weather in the organization is pretty much the same.

While you may not have thought of it in terms of a weather forecast, you’ve probably experienced this phenomenon from one end or the other. Most people who have been around organizations for any amount of time have worked for a boss where the question on everyone’s mind was, “What kind of mood is he in today?”  It’s the same dynamic. The boss controlled the weather.

So, if you’re the boss, it’s worth thinking about what kind of weather system you’re creating.  Warm front or cold front? Sunny and pleasant or stormy and blustery?  What kind of impacts do your weather systems have on the team’s results? Have you even been aware that you’ve been creating the weather?

If you’re interested in becoming a more effective leadership meteorologist, here are a few things to pay attention to:

Your Energy Level:  Just like the sun, your energy probably has the biggest impact on the weather. Is it low, medium or high? Is it negative, neutral or positive?  What combination of factors do you need to radiate to create the environment for your team to create the results that are needed?

Your Choice of Words:  Have you noticed how excited TV weather forecasters get when there’s an impending blizzard or a hurricane? It’s like they want you to freak out and get frantic. Your choice of words matters.  What kind of climate are you creating with your words?  Is that the kind of climate that will sustain long term results?

Your Predictability:  Don’t you hate it when you go out dressed for a pleasant day and then, out of nowhere, the sky opens up and you’re caught in a drenching rain without an umbrella?  We appreciate accurate predictions of the weather. Likewise, your team appreciates some measure of predictability in how you’re going to show up as a leader.  If you don’t project some level of consistency, they’re going to waste a lot of energy guessing about what kind of mood you’re in and dancing around you.

Your Visibility:  Most of us like days when the visibility goes on for miles.  It’s easier to see down the road and navigate towards the destination.  For leaders, visibility comes into play in a couple of important ways.  One is how clear and transparent you are about what’s important to you and what gets rewarded.  Another is how visible you make yourself to the organization. Weather savvy leaders pay attention to their visibility.

Your Protective Cover:   To avoid sunburn, you need some protection in the form of a hat, sun block and the right kind of clothes. To avoid getting burned at work, you need a leader who offers some protective cover.  What are you doing as a leader to let your team know that you’ve got their back?

What have you noticed about leaders and the weather systems they create?  What else should leaders pay attention to on this front? (Pun sort of intended.)