Farmer Bob watched me struggle with my arms stretched to the limit and my feet slipping on the concrete floor as I pushed the heavy cart valiantly across the shop floor.
I was making progress moving the heavy load, but it was painful and slow. Farmer Bob said in a matter of fact tone, "Pull. Don't push."
In a know-it-all reply, I said, "The laws of physics say that whether I push it or pull it doesn't matter; the same amount of work is done in moving it from point A to point B. So don't be telling things that are contradictory to the laws of science."
Farmer Bob laughed, "That may be true, but at the end of the day you might feel like the laws of physics have stretched every muscle in your body from point A to point B.
Humans get more work done in less time when pulling not pushing."
Farmer Bob was right. Pulling heavy objects is much easier than pushing. And the same principle applies when leading people. As effective leaders in business know, it's better to set up a system that pulls people toward a goal rather than pushing and shoving them along.
One of the ways business leaders create pulling forces for employees is to live by example. Rather than pushing and pressuring employees to act and react in certain ways, pull style leaders set the standard for others to follow. Over time, employees remember and mimic the leader's behavior. This applies not only to good attitudes and behaviors, but bad attitudes and behaviors as well.
You've probably noticed a riding instructor who is a screamer, insulting and intimidating. If you study the behavior of the instructor's assistants and students, you'll find that they, too, exhibit similar behavior as the instructor in some or all situations.
And on the other hand, the instructor who is supportive, positive and inspiring has assistants who operate in much the same way.
I call this leadership principle Youdoo Voodoo.
Magically and mysteriously, what you do, your actions, are eventually mirrored by your employees and followers. The way you answer the phone, the way you handle horses and the expressions on your face all imprint messages in the mind of the viewer. And, often, proper evaluations of your methods and effectiveness in the role of leader are not made by those who report to you. Your actions are simply repeated by your employees like an ongoing game of follow the leader.
When you make it a point to constantly be a pull leader by setting good examples, you'll find it is unnecessary to push people with shouting, warnings and ultimatums.
You'll be pulling them along toward your goals and they'll be smiling the entire way, as long as you are.