As a leader in your field, are you a thermometer or a thermostat? Yes, this may sound like an odd question at first glance. But it’s actually pretty important. Are you leading like a thermometer or a thermostat? 

Think, for a second, about the difference. A thermometer is passive. If you put a thermometer in a room, it will slowly rise or fall to the appropriate temperature. It will give a reading then do very little else. It is aware of the temperature. Although this awareness serves a purpose, it’s pretty useless as a leader. A thermostat, on the other hand, is in control. It doesn’t perform a passive function. A thermostat sends a message to the heating or cooling system telling it how to act. Dutifully, the thermostat’s commands cause the heat to turn on or the air conditioner to start working. A thermostat is aware of the temperature and does something about it.  

Lots of leaders think that they are successful by keeping a finger on the pulse of their subordinates. They gauge the temperature of their staff and note it. They watch from their position of power and do very little to actually change the climate. They will see a professional climate at risk for boiling over, but they aren’t capable of doing anything to prevent disaster. They may even yell out warning signs, “Danger! The temperature is too high!” but they aren’t able to fix any problems or change anything about the situation. They are passive, after all. 

A thermostat style leader is more dynamic. They’re in control. As the proverbial pot is at risk of boiling over, they delegate the job of lowering the temperature knowing it will be done with immediacy. The thermostat leader ensures that change happens in a timely manner. They demonstrate awareness and action at the same time. A thermostat leader is dynamic. This style leader is one who is constantly aware of the situation but doesn’t sit idly in their awareness. A thermostat heeds the warnings and follows through with action. The thermostat leads its staff to do its job. 

This week, when you perform your duties as a leader, ask yourself if you’re leading as a thermometer or a thermostat. Are you simply watching the temperature rise above or below a safe temperature without doing anything to change the situation? Or are you noticing and then affecting change in your position of power? By taking a hard look at your leadership style and asking yourself which sort of leader you are, you’ll start to see real change in your staff and much greater success over time.