What benefit is it to the organization if short-term goals are met, but a leader’s behavior contributes to employee unrest, sabotage, or high turnover with loss of skills and knowledge? Leaders must be aware of how their behavior impacts the motivation and performance of their employees.

How leaders expect others to behave determines how they themselves act toward them. If they have negative expectations (beliefs) about someone, their behavior will reflect how they feel, and they are likely to get the behavior they expect. This, of course, can severely impact performance outcomes.

Successful management of our own behavior and that of others can greatly facilitate our working relationships. When we have established effective working relationships, we can anticipate successful outcomes in the planning, managing and reviewing of performance. In order to do this, we need to understand the dynamics of behavior.

Behavior is something somebody does, something that is observable, and something that is measurable. A major premise of performance management is that as a leader, it is important for you to concentrate on observable, measurable behavior.


We have two options as to how we react to the behaviors of others. The first and natural response is to perceive this person as a threat and respond in a self-protective fashion. But this type of response serves only one purpose – to preserve and protect us from our perceived threat. Self-protective responses isolate us from the threat. They are survival responses designed to preserve oneself or one’s self-image. They take us nowhere except back to where we were. Or they may serve to keep us from losing our ground. As such, they are static “back-to-ground-zero” type responses.

Self-protective responses serve only the needs of the person protecting themselves. As such, they are non-negotiable. They do not contribute anything to the relationship because they do not encourage dialogue. After all, we cannot have meaningful dialogue or negotiation with someone who is trying to control us, attack us, give in to us, or avoid us.

Our second option in the face of change is to perceive change, not as a threat, but as a challenge and then to respond in a self-actualizing manner. Self-actualizing responses start with recognition of the legitimacy of the other person’s position. We may not agree with them, but we accept it as deserving consideration.

A Self-actualizing response copes with reality – the way things are – not the way we wish them to be. It takes the other person into consideration. A Self-actualizing response is a problem-solving response that tries to meet the needs of the other person as well as our own. This approach makes involvement unavoidable. And with involvement comes risk. The risk is that the other person may actually influence us. The Self-protective person will not take that risk. The Self-actualizing person does.

But where there is risk, there may also be reward. The reward is to grow, to develop, and to enrich oneself, to discover a new and better alternative – in short to change, to meet the challenge of the initial change itself.

In summary, the extent that we are able to avoid Self-protective responses makes us more prepared to cope with change and the unexpected. Thus whoever can remain open, accepting, and willing to negotiate seems more prepared to deal with the challenges that leadership offers.

This developmental process begins with these three steps:

* Knowing where we are – in a self-actualizing or a self-protective response mode

* Recognizing a self-protective response as a normal, human response

* Working to avoid being self-protective habitually – a lifestyle of self-protectiveness.

Learn how you can lead with authority. Get a copy of So You Think You Can Lead? on Amazon. 


Anne and Heather are organizational and leadership development experts at Caliber Leadership Systems, a boutique consulting firm specializing in dismantling of dysfunction in organizations.  They are dedicated to empowering individuals, leaders, and organizations to achieve their potential by leveraging their expertise in the neurobiology of human development combined with system thinking approach. They wear many hats – Consultants, Executive Coaches, Trainers, Speakers and Authors – adapting their expertise and solutions to meet the needs of their clients. They bring a unique depth and breadth of knowledge and experience that gives clients the benefit of all of our disciplines to help them achieve their goals.

As experts in human development and behavioral change, leadership and organizational transformation, interpersonal dynamics and the achievement of potential, Anne and Heather have worked with thousands of leaders and individuals from around the world, been featured in dozens of publications, spoken at professional conferences, and written several series of books on personality type and the brain based on the Striving Styles® and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®.

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