To sustain desired behaviors, it is important to model them. Modelling happens when a person consistently demonstrates behaviours that point to a particular value system. Whether the modelled behaviour is intentional or not, it gives permission to others to demonstrate actions that reflect a similar value system. In other words, modelling provides observers with the creative freedom they need to exhibit values authentically.

Replication happens when persons are expected to demonstrate behaviors in the exact way that they were modelled. This tends to force persons to think along the lines of what would my supervisor do and how he or she would do it as opposed to tapping into their unique modes of expression.

When leaders are unaware of their biases, they tend to select persons for their teams because they seem most like them. They are comfortable with uniformity, and sameness because it reduces creative tension. In circumstances like these, leaders may even attempt to train and develop their direct reports the way they were trained and developed, because they view them as replicas of themselves, not taking each employees’ unique personality, learning style, and mix of strengths and weaknesses into account.

Positive bias happens when one person is inclined to provide benefits to another in a way that can seem unfair to those who are not receiving the benefit. It is a lens through which leaders knowingly or unconsciously view the world and make decisions.

Employees who are extrinsically motivated and in survival mode tend to comply with unspoken expectations to emulate behaviors to the letter while suffering in silence. Intrinsically motivated employees refuse to tolerate a situation where they are being pressured into be someone they are not.

Along the consulting path, I have encountered persons being developed who are completely different from the person developing them. When leaders are unaware of their biases, the employee being developed can experience extreme pressure when they do not exhibit the same natural proclivities. To add insult to injury, these employees witness their leaders demonstrating what they perceive to be favoritism toward persons who are most like them. When employees feel deeply devalued, confidence levels decrease, anxiety levels heighten, errors happen, and engagement levels decline.

It is important for leader to facilitate individuality and diversity when modelling behaviours for multiple reasons. A primary reason is because when too many persons on a team think similarly the team can overlook risks that can derail a project or future survival of the business. This dynamic is better known as group think.

Another reason why diversity is important is because without it, there is the risk of the business becoming irrelevant within a constantly changing external environment. A third, compelling reason is because attempts to replicate yourself can lead to disengaged, or worse, actively disengaged employees who have become demotivated, or worse, angrily expressive because they find themselves in a frustrating situation.

When leaders decide to model behaviours effectively, the first step is to get to really know each member of your team. I have witnessed new leaders who take this step very seriously. They take time to observe the team, build relationships, review analytics, and give employees opportunities to contribute who were previously marginalized. They focus on employees’ talents and help them better align with their talents through new placement or developmental opportunities. Their intention is to support each team member in becoming the best version of themselves possible.

Effective modelling is based on shared values. If a leader has personal values that are the same or different than the core values of the organization, employees will model the behaviours being exhibited. When these behaviours are different than the core values of the organization, the business can experience engagement challenges which can weaken the company sometimes immediately, other times in the longer-term.

As I mentioned already, modelling requires leaders to exhibit desired behaviours and values consistently, but this is not enough. Modelling should be supported by other developmental opportunities like training, coaching, and mentoring. Combined, these developmental opportunities support employees with permanently shifting their mindsets because they understand why they are doing what they are doing.

Modelling is more effective than telling because it shows what the desired behaviours are and how to apply them in different situations. Persons can feel the effects of the modelled behaviour, and this also helps with retention and future application.

As you use modelling to bring about changes in behaviour within your team, it is important to be patient. Sometimes team members protect group norms, because they are programmed to safeguard what they have come to view as acceptable behavior. With effective modelling, appropriate reward systems for accountability and ownership, and the willingness to allow persons to be authentic, you can build a more engaged, productive team.

Author's Bio: 

Yvette Bethel is CEO of Organizational Soul, an Organizational Effectiveness Consulting and Leadership Development company. She is a Consultant, Trainer, Speaker, Facilitator, Executive Coach, Author, and Emotional Intelligence Practitioner. If you are interested Yvette's ideas on other leadership topics you can sign up for her newsletter at or you can listen to her podcast at Evolve Podcast.