Leading By Example
What good or bad habits do leaders exhibit? If you were to observe your behaviors as a leader, what would you look like? What behaviors would your coworkers say you exhibit? It can be very hard to look at yourself and be totally honest -- to not let the voices in your head come up with excuses. Don’t judge, but be honest with yourself. Only then, can you choose to make the intentional changes and internalize the habits to take you closer to being the person you want to become. It has taken me quite a while to realize how to be honest with myself and sometimes I still struggle. I observe leader’s behaviors and discern from them what behaviors would help me become the person I want to be. (Always an on-going process)
My evolution as a leader…
Early on in my work life, I observed a supervisor in a position of authority berate an employee in front of others during work. This behavior didn’t sit well with me. I could see how much it embarrassed the person being reprimanded in front of his coworkers. I vowed at that time that as a leader, in a similar situation, I would take an individual aside and discuss the behavioral issue(s) with them and work together to develop an improvement plan. After observing the behavior of this supervisor, I decided I would never replicate this type of negative behavior.
Later on, I experienced a supervisor take credit for a solution that an employee had created. The job was extremely large and the deadline was very tight. Sales sold a job stating that we could produce it at a low price with no issues. The complexity of the job and the certain failure that faced the company had the GM and department heads all gathered around the job on the production floor. After long debates and failed attempts a creative and critically thinking employee voiced a possible solution, but no one was listening except a shop supervisor. When the supervisor heard the solution, he immediately barged into the group of executives standing there contemplating the problem, and declared “I came up with a solution”. The solution was used and the job was saved. The employee never again voiced their ideas and eventually left that company. Solutions are found in many places by all employees. Give credit where credit is due.
Another time, an impactful experience left another employee looking to get out of a company as quick as possible. Management had been soliciting for continuous improvement ideas. The employee had come up with a creative idea and a plan to implement a process that would potentially save the company thousands of dollars. The employee’s department head liked the idea. The department head then told the employee that he could implement the process if he integrated the changes he had made. The employee was instructed to implement the changes as dictated by the department head. Long story short, the employee lost the drive to do the project, because it was no longer his idea--it failed miserably, costing the company a great deal of money and time. When the department head was asked what happened, he blamed the ‘incompetent’ employee. This employee also left the company shortly thereafter.
So far, I have been giving examples of ‘what not to do’. Good examples also exist: A company I worked for celebrated their 25th anniversary; the owner of the company took all of management to Orlando for a celebration with spouses. There were different speakers and training throughout the day, and in the evening we celebrated with exquisite dinners and fun times at the resorts. The plants ran themselves for the long weekend. The owner exhibited two values by giving back to employees for their hard work and by trusting the employees, at the plants, to follow through on day to day operations without higher supervision.
After all was said and done, it became my responsibility to measure what I do versus what I believe is the ‘right’ behavior to follow. The ‘right’ behavior for me fell in line with my personal values and goals. The actions I took when no one else was watching became my character. This early experience instilled in me a higher awareness of the need to elevate and grow people. What examples have you emulated? What are your behaviors? Do they lead to growth, or are they squashing you and those around you?
Your choice, your responsibility…
Because we can emulate any example we choose, this places the responsibility on us to choose. This doesn’t mean you should try to be someone else (i.e. Michael Jordan, Ed Sheeran, Oprah Winfrey, etc.), what I am saying is choose the desired habits that person exhibits and internalize them through constant, purposeful practice. This will help you to evolve into the leader you desire to be in family, business and society. Discipline and accountability are required.
The behaviors that you practice daily become the habits that will define you. Others will see what you do and know you from those behaviors. It’s called ‘Transparency’. They will know if what you say is consistent with what you do. If you look to see who is following you and no one is there, then it might be time to take a closer look at yourself and decide who you want to be. Remember there are always good examples. Good examples of what to do, and good examples of what not to do. It is always your responsibility to choose.