Aug 09

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13 – The Law of the Picture

“People Do What People See”

In John C. Maxwell’s book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You (2007), John shares the law of the picture.

The law of the picture summarizes what is often observed in human nature. People tend to mimic the behaviors of their leaders. When a leader demonstrates behaviors that lead to success, people that follow mimic those behaviors and succeed as well.

The picture consists of vision, mission, and strategy. Great leaders possess a visionary mindset. The vision describes the “what” needs to be accomplished. Great leaders understand the purpose for reaching the vision or desired end state. The mission answers the “why” to reach an objective. Great leaders also posses the ability to develop a strategy to reach an objective. The strategy provides the “how” for achieving a desired end state.

Mission, vision, and strategy provide little benefit without action. So leaders recognize that without action the vision, mission, and strategy accomplish nothing. The leader is responsible for assisting people to take action toward the vision through the strategy. People rarely envision the end state the way that the leader does so the leader is responsible for communicating in such a way as to create a common mental model that makes the vision come alive. Communicating in such a fashion includes clear and creative techniques to continually reinforce the desired end state. When the leader lives the vision, the leader models the vision making it real and alive.

Nothing is easier than saying words. Nothing is harder than living them, day after day – Arthur Gordon

Good leaders recognize the importance of the example they set. A strategy rarely plays out exactly as expected. When deviations occur and uncertainty is high, the need for strong leadership increases. In this state, the ability to keep the vision alive that creates energy, passion, and motivation to press on in the face of uncertainty is the law of the picture.

Leadership Insights
1. People watch what you do. As a leader, recognize that people tend to model behaviors that you display. People tend to believe what they see not necessarily what they hear. You convince people by what you do not by what you say.
2. Teaching what is right is easier than doing what is right. On 6 Aug 2010, an example of this insight surfaced when Mark Hurd resigned as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Mark stated, “As the investigation progressed, I realized there were instances in which I did not live up to the standards and principles of trust, respect and integrity that I have espoused at HP and which have guided me throughout my career. After a number of discussions with members of the board, I will move aside and the board will search for new leadership. This is a painful decision for me to make after five years at HP, but I believe it would be difficult for me to continue as an effective leader at HP and I believe this is the only decision the board and I could make at this time. I want to stress that this in no way reflects on the operating performance or financial integrity of HP” (Hewlett-Packard, 2010, para 5).
3. Change yourself before trying to improve others. As a leader, you need to lead yourself first. Set high standards of excellence for yourself. Work the hardest and longest on improving yourself. Failing to lead by example creates a fuzzy picture to those you intend to lead.
4. A leader’s example is the most value gift a leader can give. People desire leaders where espoused beliefs and actions align. People learn best from watching good leaders in action. Many leaders emerge by observing and replicating the behaviors of leaders that mentored them.

I wish you well on your personal growth journey. I appreciate your additional insight, so feel free to comment to share your thoughts and experiences.

Links to other posts in this discussion on the laws of leadership.
Mind map of the 21 laws of leadership.
Introduction to the leadership laws | 1 – The Law of the Lid | 2 – The Law of Influence | 3 – The Law of Process | 4 – The Law of Navigation | 5 – The Law of Addition | 6 – The Law of Solid Ground | 7 – The Law of Respect | 8 – The Law of Intuition | 9 – The Law of Magnetism | 10 – The Law of Connection | 11 – The Law of the Inner Circle | 12 – The Law of Empowerment

Hewlett-Packard, HP. (2010, August 6). HP CEO Mark Hurd resigns; CFO Cathie Lesjak appointed interim CEO; HP announces preliminary results and raises full-year outlook . Retrieved from http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/press/2010/100806a.html
Maxwell, John. (2007). The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership: Follow them and people will follow you. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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  • http://rockyshawer.typepad.com/blog/ Kim Keltt

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  • http://www.thephoenixprinciple.com Ryan

    With the shake up at HP, do you think the new leadership will just keep doing more of the same or invest in a new direction? The grid posted on this blog provides some interesting comparisons of why companies like HP, Microsoft and Dell should be spending money on new products outside of their core offering.

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