Leadership Congruence: Do You Walk the Talk?

walk the Talk

A foundational behavior in effective leadership requires demonstrating congruence between what one says and what one does.

Unfortunately, many times the behaviors of those in charge reflect a philosophy of “do as I say not as I do” rather than one of congruence.

Creating Distrust and Disagreement

Incongruence at both the personal and organizational level often results in distrust and disengagement by the people who have experienced or observed the incongruence. While the data on disengagement and its impact is alarming, the good news is that we are actually dealing with the behaviors that cause the issues.

And when dealing with behaviors, there is a better chance to create better outcomes.

  • We can often think of those managers who hold themselves to a different standard than they hold everyone else to.
  • These are the managers that consistently expected others to stay late but leave the office early themselves.
  • They are the managers who stress transparency. yet would not relay important information to their people. Maybe they are the managers who stressed integrity. yet are unethical in their own behaviors.

These actions often created environments of distrust and disengagement by those who see or who are the recipient of this behavior.

Talking, But Not Walking

As well, we can all recall the organizations that might have done this:

  • State their commitment to their employees or customers, yet don’t behave that way.
  • Claim that their people are their most important asset, yet they do not invest in their development.
  • Or, they are the organizations that conducts a survey on employee satisfaction, yet do nothing to address the issues that may have surfaced from the survey.

Again, these behaviors often create a sense of employee distrust toward the organization.

Creating Dissonance

In these examples, this incongruence often results in disconnection, disengagement and distrust toward the manger, the organization or both.

In the past, the social and financial impact of these negative behaviors was often overlooked.

However, today ample data exists which demonstrates the adverse impact that disengagement has on an organization as it relates to turnover, absenteeism, injuries and profitability to name a few. Much work has been done by organizations such as Gallup to expose the negative consequences of disengagement.

Changing Minds, Changing Behaviors

The good news about the high levels of disengagement the surveys have uncovered is that it can minimized, through behavior changes.

The first behavior involves acting in a congruent way.

As leaders, we must “walk the talk.” In order to create an engaged workforce, those in positions of authority and organizations themselves must become aware of the negative impact that incongruence has on people, the organization, and its customers.

This behavior involves taking inventory of your actions and asking, “Would I see my words and actions as being congruent if I observed them in someone else.”

Another suggestion would be to find someone who would be committed to providing honest feedback on your behaviors and their level of congruence.

This is the first step toward increasing engagement in those around you.

Take the challenge and regularly ask yourself: Is you approach to walk the talk or do you expect others to do as you say but not as you do? What behaviors might you be exhibiting that are incongruent? How might this behavior have caused disengagement in someone in your workplace? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Patrick Veroneau, MS Organizational Leadership

Patrick Veroneau, MS is CEO of Emery Leadership Group
He inspires Others to Develop Effective Leadership Behaviors
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L2L Contributing Author


  1. Peter McDougall AM on July 10, 2014 at 7:26 am

    “Walk the talk” is a relatively recent maxim illustrating the importance of leaders setting the example. I prefer this one:

    “Be the change you want to see” Mahatma Gandhi – a leader who in the most difficult of circumstances lived his example.

  2. Dave Mohn on July 10, 2014 at 11:09 am

    Outstanding commentary, hit the nail on the head. It would be wise for leaders to examine their interaction with employees.

  3. John Smith on July 10, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Reblogged this on THE STRATEGIC LEARNER and commented:
    Congruence … we all understand the value, but achieving this quality in our words, actions, and thoughts is much more difficult than we think much of the time …

    • Thank you for your response, John. I am reminded of a quote I read recently by Joe Louis. He said, “everybody wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.” Often times, I think this happens to us in our own development. We want the finished product but neglect the effort needed to get us where we want to go.

      • John Smith on July 13, 2014 at 10:26 am

        Thanks, Patrick:). I know and like that quote … very useful.

  4. Paul Sohn on July 11, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Such a good post Patrick. It’s all about being authentic. Character is the bedrock to any success, including leadership effectiveness. Thanks for the reminder!

    • I would agree with you on the importance of character. It is our internal compass which keeps us on the correct path when we may be tempted to veer off. Thank you Paul

  5. Brent Hedden on July 11, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    As John Maxwell stated “people do what people see”. The importance of walking the talk speaks volumes to your people. If they see that you are a hypocrite, your influence with them will be diminished if not lost..