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An Important Behavioral Leadership Practice

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An Important Behavioral Leadership Practice

“Car back!” … “Car up!” … “Slowing!” … “Watch the pot-hole!”

These are some of the things you’d hear people communicating if you were on a group cycling ride with just about any bike club. (Okay, that last one about pot-holes may be particular to Michigan. We do have a major problem. But that’s another topic…)

I have spent many hours this summer riding with friends, and some careful observing has taught me some things about leadership.

Here is one of them…

Many of the same behavioral leadership practices that make us faster as a group of cyclists make us more effective as an organization when our leaders engage in them.

The one I’d like to focus on here is consistency. This may be one of the most important practices in behavioral leadership.

When cycling with a group you can travel further and faster if you work together. One way to do this is to draft. Drafting means riding between 1-3ft from the wheel of the person in front of you. You might think this doesn’t make a big difference, but you’d be wrong…drafting reduces drag by 24-50%, allowing you to go faster and further without burning so much energy.

(And yes, there are studies of this. Here’s an overview for my fellow geeks.)

OKAY. Enough physics. What does this have to do with the behavioral leadership practice of consistency?

Imagine trying to walk directly behind someone, as closely as possible. No problem, right? Now, imagine that this person speeds up and slows down unexpectedly. How does that impact your confidence in following them? You’d drop back to avoid a collision, right?

Well, the same applies in cycling. When riding with someone who rides at inconsistent speeds and pedal strokes, you are forced to drop back, to avoid collision. And this slows the entire group down because you are breaking the draft.

So what about consistency in behavioral leadership?

How does it feel to work with a leader who never seems to finish anything?

…Someone who has trouble staying focused, and seemingly has new priorities every day?

…Someone who usually does not do what they say they would do?

…The same goes for a team member or coworker who you depend on.

Over the past 25 years, my clients have told me resoundingly that working with people who are inconsistent is annoying, frustrating, and it slows the performance of the team or organization.

One type of consistency in behavioral leadership is what I call Behavioral Integrity.

Behavioral integrity means doing what you say you will do, and it applies to behavioral leadership even if you don’t explicitly promise to do the thing (for example, think about whether people follow the values of the organization).

Research suggests that teams who believe their leader (or team member) will do what they said they’d do will…

…believe the leader is more competent

…have more trust in the leader, and

…are more likely to go above and beyond if the leader asks them to do something.

Furthermore, organizations that focus on behavioral integrity deliver higher growth and profits than organizations that focus on other values.

How do you get to be more consistent in your behavioral leadership? Whether you’re a leader or a cyclist, consistency is a muscle that we have to work on in order to improve. How do you get yourself to do that?

…Behavioral science, naturally.


If you’re thinking about how to get your team up to speed on these or other techniques I cover, email me for info on my courses.

Or if you would you like me to speak to your organization on topics like this click here and let me know, I’d love to hear from you!

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