What is your leadership style? Do you lead with the quality of a Thermometer or a Thermostat? (The following philosophy is based on Henry Hitt Crane’s “Thermometers versus Thermostats“)
A thermometer is a simple instrument that records or registers temperature and displays those results. It doesn’t matter how hot or cold, the thermometer will reflect the temperature. A thermometer will recognize the tiniest fluctuation in the external conditions and immediately adjust the reading up or down. It conforms completely to the environmental situation in which it finds itself. The behavior of a thermometer is definitely determined from external sources.
Thermostats on the other hand have all the characteristics of the thermometer in addition to one great difference, the element of control. A thermostat responds to its environment and if the temperature does not correspond to the temperature at which it was set, it immediately puts into action certain forces to change (the temperature) to conform to the setting. If the building is too cold and the temperature falls below the specified setting – the thermostat kicks on the heater and pumps hot air (or water) until the temperature reaches the setting on the thermostat and then turns off the heater.
The same is true when it is too hot, the thermostat kicks the cooling system on and runs until the temperature reaches the setting on the thermostat. The environment is determined by the thermostat not vice-versa. It is internally controlled.
Although these two devices are very similar, there is a major difference. Our discussion today relates leadership styles with thermometers vs. thermostats. Simply put, if you are a ‘thermometer’ type of leader – your leadership style is determined by all the things around you, outside. A thermometer leader really isn’t a leader at all; just a person who has been put into a position of leadership. Yet a ‘thermostatic’ type of leader makes things happen. The leadership of a thermostatic is based on doing what is right and in creating success, not for oneself but for the team.
So how do we compare, contrast and work on getting away from thermometer type leaders and move to being more of a thermostatic type leader? Let’s look at four issues and see what we can develop. This is by no means a complete list, just a few examples of the contrast between these two types of leadership styles.
First, thermometer type leaders do whatever is being done; they live in a world of conformity. On the converse, thermostatic leaders, rather than conforming for the sake of peace, will transform things and do what has to be done. Thermostatic leaders have no fear of rocking the boat. Similar to a thermostat, they fire things up and create a change in the environment, they get things done. This bears repeating, “Thermostatic leaders have no fear of rocking the boat and fire things up to create a change in the environment!”
Second, being popular with the crowd and being one of the gang is so important to the thermometer leader because they want to fit in, they don’t want to be singled out from the crowd. This can be recognized not only in business, but also in the home. No one wants to be the bad guy anymore; everyone wants to be everyone’s friend. By contrast, the thermostatic leader has all this; however his/her road to get there is quite different. The great leader is very popular with the gang, but for totally different reasons. It is because they are willing to stand up and take a position. Even though the team or family may not always like the position, they can count on the consistency of the leader. This consistency is what makes them so popular; you know where they are coming from and where they are headed. They are hot or cold, but never lukewarm.
Third, there is nothing worse than a chameleon-like leader – a trait of the ‘thermometer’. The thermometer changes the reading based on the temperature; the thermometer type leader changes his/her colors based on the surroundings i.e., flip-flop, flip-flop, red and orange and yellow. The thermostatic leader is always green. You might not like what this leader has to say, you might not like what this leader does, you might not like their position, but you respect it and you know where they are coming from, because it is always the same; consistency in leadership.
The final difference- thermometer leaders ridicule genuine enthusiasm, hate originality and are horrified at independent action. The direction of a thermometer leader is simple – to succeed one must conform. If a member doesn’t conform, then the leader wants that person off the team. The thermometer leader has no room for what he perceives as silly enthusiasm; a total lack of conforming. Thus, get out, get off the team!
The thermostatic leader has a very simple statement in life – “I don’t care what everybody else is doing, this is what we are doing.” Their teams are full of enthusiasm, originality and independent action that creates success for the team. Their direction is simple – to succeed one must do what is right.
What type of leader are you? What type of leader do you want to be?