If you believe, you can achieve. Leaders at all levels can harness the power of self-efficacy, otherwise known as the Galatea Effect. This lesson will provide analysis of the Galatea Effect and its use in effective leadership communication.

Pygmalion and Galatea

There’s an ancient Greek myth about Pygmalion, a sculptor who had given up on real human contact (specifically with women). He created a statue, Galatea. The statue was so perfect, so life-like, that he fell in love with it. The goddess Aphrodite appreciated his love for the statue and brought it to life!

Even though the gods had a hand in bringing Pygmalion’s statue to life, his work really became a self-fulfilling prophecy: he believed in and loved his statue so much that it came to life. The myth is important in leadership and employee performance improvement. If an employee believes that they can succeed, they probably will. Thus, we call it the Galatea Effect.

What Is the Galatea Effect?

The Galatea Effect is one of self-efficacy: the belief and trust in oneself and one’s abilities and potential to succeed. Employees’ beliefs about their ability to perform at a certain level actually impact how they perform. What they think of themselves, positive or negative, impacts performance and the ability to complete tasks, meet deadlines, and work as a team.

As a leader, you can instill self-efficacy in your employees through various means. The graphic here shows some of the steps you can take as a leader to encourage employees to succeed and believe in themselves.

Galatea empower employees

Some or all of these options are available to you as a leader to draw the best from employees: mentoring, consistent positive feedback, assigning an employee to special projects, providing developmental opportunities as they arise, one-on-one coaching of your employees, and delivering consistent messages. You can foster a stronger self-image and build high self-expectation from your employees by using these methods.

You’ll note a distinct lack of coercion, control, restriction, or micromanagement in this approach. These tactics may work in the short term or for certain individuals, but they do not help foster the Galatea Effect. The name of the game is collaboration, empowerment, positivity, and one-on-one attention.

Of course, this is not the only approach you have available as a leader, nor is it foolproof. Many other factors will impact an employee’s outlook and performance – from their own life experience to their education. Even the company culture can have an impact on your efforts to build them up. These factors don’t mean you will fail, but you should be aware they exist.


As leaders, we can apply the lessons of the Galatea Effect to whole teams and departments. Instead of directing, telling, and reprimanding, communication can be empowering, uplifting, and encouraging. Consider the following two messages; both convey the same information. How would you respond to each one?

  • ”We’re behind schedule on the massive project. All teams are to work overtime to meet the deadlines and get us to go-live on June 5.”
  • ”To all project teams: You have done amazing work in getting us to this point in the project. We are nearly there, but we need everyone’s expertise and knowledge. You are the experts and know this better than any of us on the leadership team: You CAN do this!”

This type of communication is broader, but think of how a one-on-one note could be drafted to an employee.

  • ”I know you’re struggling with Java. But you know more about COBOL than any programmer here, or in any organization for that matter! I think it’s a matter of change and newness. You know programming and logic and how to build amazing software. Just remember that. I’m not pushing you to be a total expert, but I know that you will be. Take the time you need to learn the new tool; there’s no rush. You’re the best we have, and you can do this.”

Consistency is also key! How often do we hear messages that conflict: Manager A says that the policy includes international travel, while Manager B says no international travel is allowed. Leaders at all levels should ensure that consistent messages are sent from all supervisors and leaders. How can our employees possibly believe in themselves when they don’t believe us?

Lesson Summary

If you believe you can do it, you will: this is the core of the Galatea Effect. It is an effect of self-efficacy, the belief and trust in one’s abilities and potential. Leaders should build up their employees and reinforce the idea that they are fully able to complete the tasks or projects at hand. Building communication to individuals and departments can harness the Galatea Effect and empower others. If entire teams/departments believe in their ability, they can achieve great things – or at least deliver the project on time!