Anamcgary's Blog

Leadership thoughts from PeopleFirst HR


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Be The Change You Wish To See

In my last blog I explained how powerful it can be to lead by example. But what happens when you don’t follow this rule? How does your team feel when you tell them to do one thing, and then you do the exact opposite?

When leaders don’t “practice what they preach,” it can be almost impossible for a team to work together successfully. How can anyone trust a leader who talks about one thing, but does another?  And so it is with your team. If you say one thing and do another, they likely won’t follow you enthusiastically. Why should they? Everything you tell them after that may meet with suspicion and doubt. They may not trust that you’re doing the right thing, or that you know what you’re talking about. They may no longer believe in you. Good leaders push their people forward with excitement, inspiration, trust, and vision. If you lead a team that doesn’t trust you, productivity will drop. Enthusiasm may disappear. The vision you’re trying so hard to make happen may lose its appeal, all because your team doesn’t trust you anymore.

Key Points:

Good leadership takes strength of character and a firm commitment to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. This means doing what you say, when you say it. If your team can’t trust you, you’ll probably never lead them to greatness.

Leading – and living – by example isn’t as hard as it might sound. It’s really the easiest path. If your team knows that you’ll also do whatever you expect from them, they’ll likely work hard to help you achieve your goal.

One of my favorite quotes is from Mahatma Gandhi who said “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”.

Mahatma Gandhi helped change the world because he lived by example – and, as a result, he accomplished great things. Apply This to Your Life.  If you ask a co-worker to do something, make sure you’d be willing to do it yourself. If you implement new rules for the office, then follow those rules just as closely as you expect everyone else to follow them. For example, if the new rule is “no personal calls at work,” then don’t talk to your spouse at work. You’ll be seen as dishonest, and your staff may become angry and start disobeying you. Look closely at your own behavior. If you criticize people for interrupting, but you constantly do it yourself, you need to fix this. Yes, you want people to pay attention to one another and listen to all viewpoints, so demonstrate this yourself. If, in the spirit of goodwill, you make a rule for everyone to leave the office at 5:00 p.m., then you need to do it too. If you stay late to get more work done, your team may feel guilty and start staying late too, which can destroy the whole purpose of the rule. The same is true for something like a lunch break – if you want your team to take a full hour to rest and relax, then you need to do it too.

Leading by example requires you commit to live a life that is a reflection of your leadership message. Every day there are numerous opportunities around us to influence others, to show the way and to set the example. The choice is yours, either you opt out of leadership or you choose to seize the moment and take the lead to show the way and make the difference.

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The Damage of “Do as I say, not as I do”

There’s hardly anything worse for company morale than leaders who practice the “Do as I say, not as I do” philosophy. You can typically see the loss of enthusiasm and goodwill among the staff instantly. It’s like watching the air go out of a balloon – and cynicism and disappointment usually take its place.

  • There’s the boss who tells everyone to be on time for meetings and yet always arrives late, or asks employees to stay late, and then leaves promptly at 4:45pm to go golfing.
  • There’s the supervisor who criticizes everyone for spending time on the Internet, but is discovered searching eBay for a new camera online in the middle of the afternoon; or
  • The CFO who recommends layoffs to end “unnecessary spending,” but then buys brand-new luxury office furniture for her office.

Do you know any of these people? Hopefully it’s not you……………………

No matter what the situation it’s a double standard.  Employees witnessing a leader say one thing, and then doing another.   For an employee it feels like and can be very destructive.

If this ever happened to you, you can probably remember the sense of disappointment and letdown. If you’re in a leadership position, then you know that you have a responsibility to your team. They look to you for guidance and strength; that’s part of what being a leader is. And a big part of your responsibility is to lead them with your own actions. So, why is it so important to lead by example; and what happens when you don’t?

Well there is an old saying about the difference between a manager and a leader: “Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things.” (It’s best to be both a manager and a leader – they’re just different processes.) As a leader, part of your job is to inspire the people around you to push themselves to do better and in turn, the company to success. To do this, you must show them the way by doing it yourself.

Stop and think about the inspiring people who have changed the world with their examples.

When you lead by example, you create a picture of what’s possible. People can look at you and say, “Well, if he/she can do it, I can do it.” When you lead by example, you make it easy for others to follow you. One example is Jack Welch of General Electric. Welch knew that to push GE to new heights, he had to turn everything upside down. So that’s just what he did. He developed the whole idea of a “boundaryless organization.” This means that everyone is free to brainstorm and think of ideas – instead of waiting for someone “higher up” in the bureaucracy to think of them first. He wanted his team turned loose, and he promised to listen to ideas from anyone in the company. And he did. Everyone from the lowest line workers to senior managers got his attention – if they had something to say or a new idea that might make the company better. It wasn’t just talk, and it didn’t take his team long to figure that out. Welch stayed true to his passions and what he knew was right. As a result, GE became an incredibly successful company under his management. His team was always willing to follow his lead, because the people within it knew that he always kept his word. What does this mean for you? If you give yourself to your team and show them the way, then, most likely, they’ll follow you anywhere.

But, what happens when you don’t walk the talk?  I’ll give you my insight in my next blog.