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.
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.