Stop Being Such A Predictable Leader: 6 Ways to Change this NOW


Does your team “have your number?” Do your kids? Your significant other? Sure they do.

Because it only takes a short period of observation to find the harsh truth: people are predictable.

Yet as a predictable leader, you compromise your ability to influence and to shift another’s behavior, which is often crucial to accelerate results, boost revenue, ensure sustainable growth. While a large part of influencing is about making people feel a sense of safety, belonging, and mattering, sometimes we need to bluntly lay out the facts. Being able to switch from one stance to the other is an immensely valuable leadership skill.

How Flexible is Your Behavior?

Most of us react in predictable ways, have predictable patterns of behavior, and have predictable speech patterns. No wonder it’s so easy for people to peg us….and no wonder it can seem virtually impossible to get through to certain people.

Chances are you are a predictable leader and your employees know what you’re going to say or do in many situations before you even have a chance to react. Consciously or unconsciously they tune you out (and maybe retreat into their critter state if they think your reaction will be negative)…and any productive potential the conversation may have had is lost. Or perhaps, unbeknownst to you, the way you are acting and reacting sends others a different message then the one you meant to convey.

There’s hope. The following behavioral stances can be mixed and matched for maximum influence, rapport, and outcome. When we use different stances in different scenarios, we get different results. Thanks to all my teachers on stances: Milton EricksonTony RobbinsJerry Jampolsky, and many more. There’s the:

Mommy: Supports the recipient fully, sees and acknowledges how great they are. As a result the recipient feels huge.

Anthropologist: Behaves with major curiosity and high inquiry. This stance asks lots of questions and is continually curious, at times even fascinated.

Drill Sergeant: Hard core, tell-it-like-it-is, no sugar coating. This stance is supremely direct but not mean.

Professor: Cool, high advocacy, factual, “this is how it is,” “when you do X, you get Y.”

Best Buddy: Highly empathetic: “I’ve been there, I know how hard it is.”

Guru: The wise knowledgeable one, often used by consultants, has a touch of Professor but is less linear and more about overview, has a touch of warmth and heart. This stance is the expert with a heart and high enrollment.

Behavioral Stances in Action

You’ll find that combining stances is super helpful. For example, if a team member has performed well in the past yet has repeatedly struggled for a prolonged period of time, the following approach could work:

Leader: “Jim, you are so valuable to this company, and your tremendous performance has helped us get to where we are today. I know how talented and capable you are [Mommy]. But we’ve had this conversation twice already and nothing has changed. We need you to start delivering now [Drill Sergeant]. Hey, I’ve been where you are. . . . I know how hard it is when you’re having the personal life changes that you are [Best Buddy]. Please help me to help you bring back the awesome guy I know you are [Mommy].”

Here’s another example:

Leader: “Susan, I’m curious as to why we aren’t getting the results we had wanted in our recent marketing campaign. What do you think got in the way? What could we have done differently? [Anthropologist].”

Based on Susan’s response, you could either use Professor with a prescriptive solution—if she is uncomfortable or defensive (and thus in her Critter State)—or, if she’s receptive and eager to change (in her Smart State), Guru could be used to work together on a solution.

Best Buddy and Professor are helpful when you want to empathize and yet state the facts. Two stances build connection and safety (Mommy and Best Buddy), two stances spur action (Drill Sergeant and Professor), and two stances help people solve their own problem (Anthropologist and Guru).

Making Behavioral Stances Work for You

Which stances do you default to?

Which do you find uncomfortable?

Stances help us to be powerful in our lives—to choose our response instead of be triggered by outside circumstances. Learning how to mix and match behavioral stances will increase your range and flexibility in your business. 

Say goodbye to the predictable leader. Thanks to stances there’s a new sheriff in town! 


For more on leadership and tips on increasing your employees engagement you can read Christine's last post on the The Evolution of Employee Motivation Methods.

Christine Comaford
of SmartTribes Institute applies the latest neuroscience research to help companies build vibrant engaged culture, rich and committed leadership, consistently compelling sales and marketing.