“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” — Albert Schweitzer
As any parent knows full well, young children first mimic their parent’s behaviour in order to learn, and this mimicking eventually become their own adult habits. They watch the way we eat, dress and how we carry ourselves, how we treat others and ourselves; and what values we hold most important through our actions, not our words. In the work environment, the actions and behaviours of the leader eventually becomes the culture of the organization. Those actions are largely defined by the leader’s character development, especially with the small, seemingly small unconscious and numerous acts that happen throughout the day. As a leader, even the smallest action is a judged by those around you, and over time. They come to represent the larger picture of your character, which becomes reflected back upon you by the organization.
Developing the habit of leading by example is one of the most powerful ways to reinforce your own good habits while helping those around you. You get the benefit of the initial good action, which reinforces your habit, and the benefit of the feedback from those you are leading, whether good or bad, I order so you can improve. By focusing on your own daily leadership by example, you place responsibility for your own character development in one place – on your own shoulders. You accept the responsibility for those you are leading and who may not have achieved the personal development level as you. Leading by example requires resolve and a steadfast commitment. You must hold yourself to a very high standard, particular rly if you are in a strong leadership role within your family, community or business, and there are many people depending upon you.
Using the following steps to make leadership by example a part of your daily routine.
- Remind yourself who you are leading? Whether at home, work, school or in the community, all of us are in some form of leadership role. Each day, ask yourself who is watching you, who are you teaching, why are they important to you and what impact do you want to make upon them? This will help your resolve to be better.
- Keep good character traits in the forefront of your mind, and resolve to act upon those traits each day. Focus especially on interactions with others, in the areas where you can demonstrate respect, empathy, humility, fortitude and courage.
- Seek out the opportunities to exhibit good character and do not shy away from the strong difficulties of the day, since that is where we often become our best, particularly if it involves helping others. Be very mindful during critical or emotional conversations, which often call upon us to dig deepest into the character pool, and are exceptional opportunities to demonstrate leadership.
- Finally, seek examples of great leaders you admire, such as Abraham Lincoln, Ernst Shackleton, Nelson Mandela, and find ways to emulate their behaviour, associate with them and understand how they made character development a critical aspect of their own development, and make these part of your daily routine.
Eamonn has a B. Eng. (Electrical) from Lakehead University, MBA (Finance) from University of Toronto, and has completed Executive Education at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He lives in Vancouver, Canada. Follow him on twitter @EamonnPercy