As Edgar Schein told us in 1985 , leaders embed culture in organisations by their actions. In other words, people look at what leaders do and what they reward, rather than what they say, and behave accordingly. It has become a hackneyed cliche but, if you want to change something, you really do have to follow Ghandi’s advice and become the change you want to see.
This lesson has not been lost on France’s new president, Nicolas Sarkozy. He makes no secret of his view that French workers need to ditch the 35-hour week and start working longer hours. To this end, he has decided that a bit of behavioural role modelling from France’s parliament would send out a clear message. In previous years, the assembly would have packed up for the long summer holiday by now but Sarko is keeping them all at their desks until next weekend – three whole days into the sacred month of August.
According to the Economist, this is making French people nervous. They are now considering the possibility that all this talk of hard work wasn’t just an election gimmick. Perhaps Sarkozy might really make them all work harder.
A leader can make speeches for months exhorting people to change but it won’t make a scrap of difference. Yet a few simple actions which exemplify the new way will make people sit up and take notice.