As leaders, we often talk and think about all the things we need to do to motivate others to follow us, to help us with our cause, and to get on the same page. Today, I wanted to talk about how you leading by example fits in.
I learned a long time ago that leaders show what’s important to them by what they do, not by what they say. Sure, a good motivational speech is a cool thing, but if your words don’t match what you say, that’s trouble.
Many years ago I was speaking at a conference where a big-time, legendary motivational guru, was speaking on the big stage in front of 10K people. I was doing a breakout session at the event in a room in front of about 100 people. I’m small time; he’s big time. I was backstage and got to meet him. He was someone I always looked up to. After watching his behavior for 10 minutes, I decided I didn’t care for him any longer. When he went out on stage he was “lights out.” He was a great performer, but once he got out of the public eye, he started yelling and screaming at the help. He used a few choice four-letter words and his lessons—his words—didn’t match his actions and ever since then, I haven’t held him in high regard, quit buying his products, and have told thousands about my experience.
One of the hardest things about running a company or being a leader is that we always have to be “on.” We can’t make mistakes in the words we choose or the actions we show. When we do, we will pay for those and people will stop following us, stop supporting us, and, most importantly, stop believing us. And when people don’t believe you, they don’t trust you and when they don’t trust you, they won’t follow you and a leader has to have followers to lead!
Good leaders lead by example.