Leadership Contagion!

Personal leadership Respect


Key Point: Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, two well known researchers, authors and coaches focusing on leadership, wanted to know how the aspect of “social contagion” affects leadership. Other research already reinforces the notion that good leadership creates engaged employees and influences a variety of outcomes such as people retention, customer satisfaction, revenue, productivity, and so on. Zenger and Folkman asked this question“If you’re a good leader, do you make the people around you more likely to become good leaders as well? And which behaviors are most readily ‘caught?’” 

They tested 51 behaviors and found significant correlations in over 30 of them. (All 51 showed some correlation, but not all the correlations were statistically significant). Here are the results:

“Within the behaviors that appeared contagious, there were some that appeared even more contagious than others. Behaviors that had the highest correlations between managers and their direct reports clustered around the following themes, listed in order of most contagious to least contagious:

  • Developing self and others.
  • Technical skills.
  • Strategy skills.
  • Consideration and cooperation.
  • Integrity and honesty.
  • Global perspective.
  • Decisiveness.
  • Results focus.”


The conclusion of the research reinforces the concept that good leadership is VERY contagious. It may not be immediately evident, but over time, if you’re a good boss, you likely work for one. And if your direct employees are highly engaged, people who report to them (if applicable) likely are too. 

In the company I work for, three of the most correlated behaviors are non-negotiable expectations of leaders: Getting results, developing self and others. So this is the deal: Each leader has to be “great” (not perfect) AND getting better. This research even heightens the importance because effective leaders and leadership behaviors are clearly social contagions!! If you are or are not a strong leader, the impact is profound and the higher you go, obviously the greater the impact.

Character Moves:

  1. Remind yourself regularly that leadership is developed and not stagnant. Do not assume that somehow leaders are just born. You and I are never “good enough” from a leadership perspective.  Keep sharpening your leadership saw. How will you and I be better at the end of 2016 than today? How will you know?
  2. If you are not prepared to put the intentional work in developing yourself as a leader, it’s ok. But please become an individual contributor instead. 
  3. If you are a leader and have weak leadership underneath you, ensure it improves or you will be replaced. It is that straightforward. 

Leadership Contagion in The Triangle,


One Millennial View: In all aspects of life, we naturally seem to know who we’d want “in our foxhole.” We also can name those we wouldn’t. We can learn from bad and good leadership, and of course we’ll encounter both. However, while we can mentally take notes on how to avoid bad behaviors (and become our own motivators using countermeasures), it’s only good leadership that seems to really give us that “push” to take the charge many of us yearn for. As capable as we are individually, the dream is a positive mentor. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis