The 80/20 Rule in Leadership: Three Actions That Determine Employee Behavior

Lifestyle entrepreneurs live by the 80/20 rule: do the 20% of activities that result in 80% of the results. In a life of more, maximizing output with limited resources is key. You can apply the rule almost everywhere. From exercising to learning, from meditation to creating your very first e-book.

While co-reading ‘Discover Your Talents‘ by Paul ‘t Mannetje (to be released later this year in Dutch), I was very pleased to discover an 80/20 rule in leadership. It is pretty straightforward, so here it is:

The 80/20 rule in leadership: 80% of the behavior of employes is determined by these 3 activities of the leader:

  1. Lead by example. People tend to do what you do, not what you say.
  2. Give attention to things that are agreed upon. When your team gets busy, what is the first thing that it stops giving attention to? According to Paul, the things that the leader doesn’t talk about are abandoned.
  3. Respond to incidents.
    • Give compliments when people show desired behavior
    • Correct your team when there is undesired behavior

Leaders tend to be very busy. When they fail to grow as a leader, they tend to blame a lack of time. I love the 80/20 rule in leadership, because when leaders are shown this rule, they can no longer make up excuses.

Lead by example

When I was a student, I used to work at a retirement home. There was this one manager that always paid for his drink, while some of his colleagues did not. While he could have made use of his advantage of being the boss, with this small yet important habit, he chose to lead by example. And did it impress his team? Yes, more than 10 years later, I still remember him leading by example.

Give attention to things that are agreed upon

When someone orders a naan at our cafe Hills & Mills, we offer the add-on avocado. The same way McDonalds offers you mayonaise when you order French fries. It took some repetition and perseverance before offering the add-on became the standard. First, my natural response was to pay less attention to it. Now, applying the 80/20 rule, I will remind myself to regularly put it on the agenda.

Respond to incidents

Don’t worry about giving too many sincere compliments. Rather way too many than slightly too less. On the other hand: make sure to constructively correct your team whenever undesired behavior is shown.


Do you want to maximize your leadership skills with limited resources? Then start committing to this 80/20 rule in leadership, doing those three activities: 1) Lead by example, 2) Give attention to things that are agreed upon, and 3) Respond to incidents.

Good luck!



by Nawaz

Nawaz (1987) from The Netherlands is one of the two brothers who founded INMWTS. As the secret behind 6 unusual, but successful brands, they live their dream since 2009 and encourage others to do the same. Go, nail your way to success!