A Real Life Example of Leadership

authentic leadership leadership leadership culture leadership example leadership examples in business positional leadership real life example of leadership set the example Dec 29, 2022
real life example of leadership

Since we’re gonna get what we are, and not necessarily what we want, I believe it would serve us all well to consider some real life examples of leadership that yielded teams of people who did what they did. Interestingly enough, my internet search for specific leaders who did this yielded little results but it sure did provide me with a whole lot of people who talked about it. I worked with a supervisor years ago who often exclaimed, “a mouth will say anything” - which was usually in response to one of his employees feeding him a line of nonsense! Through the mess of search results though, I did find two articles that at least listed examples of good leaders in modern history. And while neither went into detail about how the folks on the lists set an example for their immediate teams to follow, they did serve as a starting point…

In 11 Examples of Good Leaders in Modern History, Mahatma Ghandi was in the number one spot, referencing “his dedication to nonviolence, nonviolent resistance, and a simple way of life” and saying that “His message of love, tolerance, and self-sacrifice still inspires millions worldwide.” While the author didn’t say it directly, much of the inspiration Ghandi created was through the example he set rather than just his words alone.

In the other article, also landing on a magnificent 11, called 11 Successful Leaders: How They Achieved Success, Teddy Roosevelt managed to sneak into the tenth spot. Him being listed there and Martha Stewart being eighth was nearly enough for me to skip the article altogether, but I was able to find a little bit of chicken salad mixed in with all that chicken poop! I often reference T.R.’s “Man in the Arena” speech where he opened by saying “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.” I can’t think of anyone else who could use those words as confidently as him - because he was truly a doer of deeds himself! The article shared a story of how “Roosevelt had his picture taken at the controls of a 95-ton steam shovel digging a trench through the Panamanian jungle” to win the public’s support while “as Congress dilly-dallied over building the Panama Canal.” He wasn’t one to rest on words alone. He took action and set an example that led our nation into the industrial age!

Since I never knew either of those guys personally, and I’m guessing you didn’t either, I’ll bring this home by telling you about one man I watched lead by example and how it impacted my career (and life). Fresh out of the Army, Terry Ward was unlike anyone I had ever been around. He was wide open all the time - and still is 25 years later. He was very direct in everything he said and everything he did. Quite honestly, I didn’t like him at first but that had more to do with what I had heard about him than what I had experienced personally. As I interacted with him more though, I noticed that he was always respectful, even in delivering messages that many didn’t want to hear, and he never expected anyone to do something that he wasn’t willing to do himself. In developing a lesson for a group of veterans I worked with several years ago, I asked Terry for a picture from his time in the Army that I could include on a slide. The one he had kept was from Germany, not long after he had graduated from West Point, showing him suiting up to crawl underneath a tank through water and mud so the folks reporting to him wouldn’t have to do it. I didn’t have the chance to meet anyone else who was in that photo but I had seen dozens of similar examples where he had led the same way.

In his book Know What You’re For, Jeff Henderson said “Team members who are cared for care for their customers.” That thought holds true for any other part of the example we set for our teams. To have any hope of getting what we want, we need to first be what we want by providing an example our teams can follow! Leaders set the standard for their team’s performance; WE set the standard for our team’s performance… So we’ll pick up there next time. For now though, I’ll challenge you to ask yourself if you’re excited about your team’s current performance…