Are You a Thermostat Leader or a Thermometer Leader?




When it comes to leadership, are you a thermostat or a thermometer?

This is a question that was asked on an episode of Brad Costanzo’s Bacon Wrapped Business podcast that I listened to last week. Great podcast by the way.

On the podcast, the guest Alan Stein Jr (a veteran basketball performance coach and corporate speaker) who has worked with NBA stars such as Kevin Durant discussed how to utilize the same strategies in business that elite athletes and coaches use to perform at a world-class level.

SIDE NOTE: I’m currently listening to Alan’s latest book ‘Sustain Your Game’ on Audible – GREAT listen/read and a real kick up the backside in getting your focus back onto the ‘Game of Life’! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

During the podcast, Alan posed the question and then went on to explain the difference between the two. I found it an enthralling interview so wanted to paraphrase the analogy he gave here…

A thermometer reflects the temperature of the environment. It simply reacts to what’s happening around it. If the temperature is hot, it tells you so. If it’s cold, the thermometer reflects that reality as well.

It’s a dumb instrument in the sense it doesn’t contain intelligent, multipurpose functionality. It has one purpose and one purpose only.

A thermostat, on the other hand, regulates the environment. It sets the desired temperature of the room and actively works to maintain it within a given range. If the temperature rises above the goal, the thermostat signals the air conditioner to crank up and cool the room down.

If the temperature falls below the goal, the thermostat causes the heater to turn on in order to warm the room up. The thermostat is intelligent in the sense it’s always monitoring the environment, and if the temperature gets too hot or cold, it decides what to do to correct the situation.

Thermometer Leader

Thermometer leaders react to their surroundings.

When the tension gets high and people are on edge, these leaders are often seen losing their cool. They become irritable, harsh, demanding, critical, impatient, and maybe even lose their temper and yell or curse.

Thermometer leadership doesn’t inspire trust and commitment with people, it erodes it.

Thermostat leaders, however, constantly have a pulse on the morale, productivity, stress level, and environmental conditions of their team.

When the temperature gets hot because the team is under the pressure of a heavy workload, resources are scarce, or pending deadlines are causing stress, they cool things off by acting as a calming influence on the team.

They take time to listen to the concerns of their team members and provide the necessary direction and support that’s needed to help the team achieve its goals.

Thermostat leaders also alleviate pressure on their team by mixing in some light-hearted fun at opportune times.

Likewise, when work is slow and people are prone to just go through the motions, thermostat leaders get their teams refocused on the vision, purpose, and goals of the team.

Because they are actively monitoring the environment of their teams, they know when the team needs to be challenged with new goals and priorities, or when they just need a friendly kick in the pants to stay focused on their current initiatives.

Thermostat Leader

Thermostat leaders build trust and confidence with their followers, whereas thermometer leaders erode trust.

When times get wild and crazy, people want to see their leaders react with calm, focused, and determined leadership.

They want them to set the tone for how the team should react during tough times and navigate the rough seas ahead.

That’s a tough challenge for leaders because they are team members themselves and are subject to the same, and often times more and different, stressors of those experienced by the team.

So, for those of you who manage a team, how would you respond to this question? “Are you a thermometer or thermostat leader?”

About the author, Andrew Wallis

From two decades in the corporate world to finding my freedom in fitness, I'm known as Braveheart—a Personal Trainer turned marketing maestro for Fitness Professionals. I'm all about unlocking potential and empowering Fit Pros to grow their businesses. 'Finding Your Freedom' isn't just a mantra; it's a collective journey I embark upon with my clients.

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