Follow the Leader...?

authentic leadership authority effective leadership ethical influence example influence leadership management positional leadership power set the example supervision why is it important to lead by example Dec 20, 2022
why is it important to lead by example

Having just worked through the importance of responsiveness, especially when it comes to showing we value the teams we lead and maintain the influence we’ve worked to earn with the folks on those teams, I want to challenge you to really think into this question: Why is it important to lead by example?

I often ask rhetorical questions here since I don’t get to chat through it with you one-on-one. This IS NOT one of those rhetorical questions! And while the answer may seem obvious, it’s apparently not. Otherwise I wouldn’t have had two specific conversations about it recently with top performance from separate organizations, both extremely frustrated with the company culture they are currently a part of!

What each of them shared was so similar that I almost believed that they had spoken with one another before talking with me, except they don't know each other and the companies they work with don’t overlap at all that I’m aware of. In both of the individual conversations, the friend I was talking with explained a specific value the executives in their organization expect them to deliver on in everything they do. If that’s what either story ended, my response would have been “Good! You absolutely should be held accountable to your organization’s values!”

Unfortunately, that was just the beginning - and the source of their frustration. As each conversation unfolded, my friends each shared very specific examples of how a few of the executives they work with (and even reported to) frequently hopped on their proverbial soapbox to tell everyone how critical it was for them to do X, Y, and Z while making nearly no attempt whatsoever to do those same things themselves.

I’ve shared a few different lessons in our Leading At The Next Level program calling attention to the difference between managing and leading, and even between executive teams and leadership teams, so I’ll fight the urge to go down that rabbit trail again now. However, I will stress that anyone with a position or title can bark orders. And in most cases, their direct reports will comply with those orders - at least as long as the boss is watching. But if we want our team members to genuinely buy into the values we’ve shared by performing certain behaviors on a routine basis, whether we’re watching over their shoulders or not, we need to move beyond the limited power that comes with positional authority and set the example we want our team members to follow! 

If we’re serious about building an organizational culture that provides results whether we’re onsite or we’re on a field trip with our kids, managing by policy won’t get it done. We need to provide a solid reason for them to be willing to follow the leader! As we do a deep dive into this, we’ll look at how this can impact our organizations (good and bad), some effective leaders who have been great examples for their teams, as well as some specific things any leader can do to set an example they’d be proud to have each member of their team follow!