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Behaviors Are Contagious - How Leadership Affects People

Posted by Debra Steele

Topics: Workforce Development, Employee Engagement, Transparency, Assessment, Employee Motivation

Behaviors_Are_Contagious.jpgIf you have a happy friend, your chance of being happy goes up 25 percent.

If your friends are overweight, the contagion of behaviors makes you more likely to be overweight, too, according to UC San Diego researchers. If you stop smoking, your friends are more likely to quit.

So how does this “behavior is contagious” theory set affect leaders and workers?

It is well established that good leadership creates higher engagement levels, retention, customer satisfaction, and certainly company revenue.

Can leaders make others better leaders, too?

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman of the Harvard Business Review tested a set of 265 top managers and their mid-level supervisees and found a statistically valid correlation between more than half of behaviors (30 out of 51).

The writers listed the affected behaviors from “most contagious” to “least contagious”:

  1. Developing self and others
  2. Technical skills
  3. Strategy skills
  4. Consideration and cooperation
  5. Integrity and honesty
  6. Global perspective
  7. Decisiveness
  8. Results focus

The mid-level managers with the worst-performing leaders were also below average. The writers pointed to the old saying that “A players hire other A players, but B players hire C players.”

Whether or not that is true, what is clear is that both good and bad leadership behavior is contagious.

To read more about this study, click here.

Additional Resources & Further Reading:


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