Watch your thoughts; they become words

Watch your words; they become actions

Watch your actions; they become habits

Watch your habits; they become character

Watch your character; it becomes your destiny


This quote by Frank Outlaw outlines perfectly why organisations mirror their leadership. As a leader, being unconscious to this dynamic will give you a new tool to inspire and grow those around you; however, remaining unconscious to it will likely negatively impact your team. 

Through a leaders career they could watch this dynamic play out time after time; although, they typically don’t see it and instead end up blaming something else or someone else for the challenges of their organisation.

Organisations mirroring the leadership makes a lot of sense when you consider the neuroscience behind it; below are a couple neuroscience elements that help to explain this dynamic:

  • We know that the way we think and feel drive our behaviours, so Frank’s quote “Watch you thoughts; they become words – Watch your words; they become your actions” speaks to what neuroscience has proven.
  • We also know that through neuroplasticity, the morphing of our brain’s neuro pathways and neuro networks to create behavioural change, which we see in the quote “Watch your actions; they become your habits”
  • Lastly “Watch you habits; they become your character” and “Watch your character; it becomes your destiny” is the outcome of someone that has lower self-awareness of how they are impacting those around them.
  • The whole process is also supported by the fact that within our social brain, we have something called mirror neurons that allow us to pick up the emotions of others, like a virus, especially from the most powerful person in the room, which is typically you, the leader.

If all this neuroscience stuff isn’t enough to persuade you, let me share a story of how we quantifiably validate the fact that ‘Organisations mirror the leadership’.

The story – sitting on a 14 hour flight to the US seemed like a perfect time to think through why a transformation we were engaged with was not working. It was clear that the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) was not following through on commitments… but why? Entering their EQ profile data into a scan chart to outline their brain flexibility seemed to be a good starting point to reflect on the situation. 

Once we entered the aggregated data of the 25 SLT members into brain flexibility chart things start to look clearer, they were lower in Focus and lower in Adaptability. The obvious question was how this might impact their direct reports, the 120 people on the Extended Leadership Team (ELT), surprisingly, their brain flexibility map almost exactly that of the SLT… lower Focus and lower Adaptability.

Since we had now looked down the organisation, it made sense to look up and entered the aggregated data of the Executive Team and sure enough… lower Focus and lower Adaptability; and then as we put the CEO’s brain flexibility data into the chart it validated the fact that organisations mirror the leadership. See the Graphic below:

Author: John Dare, Emotous CEO   |   Published: Friday 2nd September 2022