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Are you a thermometer or a thermostat?

I’m currently reading one of Seth Godin‘s books on leadership: Tribes. In the chapter I was reading today, Godin makes an interesting observation of the key differences between a thermometer and a thermostat, and how those same kinds of differences might be observed in human nature.

Mike Torres writes a nice summary of this observation, so I’ll point you to him rather than try and rephrase something he’s already done so well.

In summary:

  • Thermometers like to criticize once a direction is chosen. They’re always first to notice when something is wrong, but can’t take the necessary steps to fix it. They’re the armchair quarterbacks of the world and are great at telling you what you already know. The thermometer has an ability to lead only in so much as hindsight is 20/20. They can’t plan or adapt to changes.
  • Thermostats take the temperature of the room first and then put a plan in place to adapt. They’re the leaders and the visionaries, and the people you rely on to stay calm in a crisis and lead you to the next level. Thermostats are able to work past criticism and negativity and push forward even when the odds are against them. Thermostats exhibit self-control and stability.


I wonder what you make of this analogy. Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Are you a thermometer, or a thermostat?