Saturday, February 18, 2012

Leadership Series - Part VII - Setting a (Good) Example

A person who worked for me for a short period of time and whom I barely had the chance to know came up to me at my retirement party and said, "You have been a real inspiration to me." I was stunned. I was flattered, but I was stunned. How could I have possibly influenced this person when we had spent so little time working together? But obviously, something had happened that they felt was influential. It made me realize something very important after all those years, although I had probably been vaguely aware of it. When you are in a position of leadership, people are watching.

I have mentioned before that I learned throughout my career from people that I wanted to emulate and from others that showed me how not to do things. When we are in a position of leadership, we don't necessarily realize that we are under scrutiny at the time but when you think about the way you probably observe others, it makes perfect sense. We have to be aware at all times. We have to set an example. We should try to be a positive role model whether we are a coach , parent, boss or in any other role of leadership.

An example can be good or bad. In an earlier post I talked about a staff member who told me when I was a shiny new supervisor that I should always show up late for everything to differentiate myself from the staff. Well....that IS an example. But it is not the right kind in my mind. An example of setting an example to me is always being on time. Everyone's time is important and to show up late for a meeting is showing a lack of respect for the time of others. You are basically saying that your time is more imporant than anyone else's. Is it really??

Setting an example can be in the way you dress, the language you use, the way you carry yourself, the way you treat others, the instructions you give, your willingness to do tasks that you expect others to do... It is the way you conduct yourself in your daily life. It is being inspiring to others. It is called leading by example and it applies equally to anyone in a position of influence. It starts with setting a standard that you want the people you are leading to reach and then demonstrating by example the best way to get there.

The early readers of this blog may have noticed that I changed the name from "management" to "leadership." There is a difference. A manager plans, organizes and administers.  A leader offers inspiration and motivation. A manager is not necessarily a good leader and a good leader may not be a good manager. If you can manage and lead by example, you will truly be someone that everyone can look up to.

Leaders have a real responsibility. They are in a position to influence and sometimes even shape lives. So a leader has to decide on the message that they want to send, whether it is being sent directly or indirectly.  Sometimes, it is the messages you are sending without even being aware of it that are the most important. 

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