What is your EXAMPLE telling the world today

We live in a world consumed with image, and frankly I’m sick of it. I’m sick of people doing their best to “look good” but “aren’t good.” I’m sick of people crying about the danger of climate change, as they continue to be the biggest users and abusers of energy. And I’m sick of the people who talk about morality as they live shameful private lives of immorality.

But that’s where we’re at in today’s image-crazed society. We worry too much about our reputation and too little about our character. As I told my audience at The Solomon Foundation recently,

“Building a reputation is largely a public-relations project; building character requires us to focus on our values and actions. Noble rhetoric and good intentions aren’t enough.”

But there’s hope. The very best leaders realize the importance of leading by example.

► 1. Understand the power of your example.

Clergyman and abolitionist John Woolman pointed that out in the 1700’s. He said, “Conduct is more convincing than language.” Absolutely true!

Every politician, every sports hero, every TV and movie celebrity,

and every other sort of leader should be required to memorize Woolman’s statement and then do it, do it, do it.

That’s why I advise my coaching clients: “Don’t point the way with your finger. Lead with your whole body.”

► 2. You need to be keenly aware of the example you set.

You see … everybody else around you knows what example you set. They can tell you. Your co-workers, subordinates, spouse, and kids.

As Joseph M. Tucci, the CEO of the information management firm EMC, says, “Every move you make, everything you say, is visible to all. Therefore, the best approach is to lead by example.”

Management consultant Darcy Hitchcock affirms that. She says, “Employees are professional ‘boss watchers.’ That is, what managers say means nothing … unless their actions model what they say.”

If everybody around you knows what your example is saying, the question is … do you know? You can’t afford to go to work … or even try to lead at home … if you don’t fully understand the example you’re setting. You could be leading people in the wrong direction and not even know it.

My advice? Get some feedback. Ask some Brave Questions. Find out how you’re coming across and what’s going on in the minds and lives of those you lead.

Casey Cropp from Fort Collins, Colorado, did, and she’s glad she did. Casey wrote,

“I am a high school band director and have been using your ‘BRAVE QUESTIONS’ book to interact with my classes. All I can say is ‘Thanks.’ You’ve given me the tool I’ve been looking for in 26 years of teaching, a tool that helps me approach my students in new and more effective ways.”

“Let me give you one example. This past fall I was directing the orchestra for our school musical. One afternoon I had the opportunity to spend some time with the orchestra members, getting to know each other using several of your questions. We talked about the example each of us set. We spent about an hour and a half sharing and bonding as a group, learning details about each other. I was given information about individuals that helped me to understand their needs and allowed me to work closer with them in the preparation of their music. Our trust level of each other went way up, and we became a team. The performances in October were astounding, and I could not have been prouder of their growth through this time together.”

To get your copy of the Brave Questions book, go to Amazon Click here.

And then,

► 3. Let your example extend to everyone.

Your character is revealed in the way you treat people … everyone, big and small.

The way you treat people you think can’t help or hurt you (like housekeepers, waiters, and secretaries), tells more about our character than how you treat people you think are important. People who are honest, kind, and fair only when there’s something to gain shouldn’t be confused with people of real character who demonstrate these qualities habitually, under all circumstances.

How would people describe you? What does your example tell others? That you always treat everyone with respect and kindness? Or do you treat people differently, depending on what they can do for you?

► 4. Let your example show up in times of stress.

Your character is also revealed in the way you deal with the pressures and temptations that cross your path. Do you do the right things all the time? Or do your actions and values take a nosedive when you think no one is looking and you won’t get caught?

You see … your example has to do with ACTIONS … not words. And that’s a tough standard to follow. But as journalist Richard Reeves notes, “All leaders face some crisis where their own strength of character is the enemy.”

Finally, for your example to mean anything,

► 5. You must walk your talk.

As someone said, “Your walk talks and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.” Simply put, you can’t say one thing and do another and expect to be a leader who inspires the followership of others.

One doctor knew that. His story was told in Howard Goldman’s book, Choose What Works. The doctor noticed a woman and her son happened to be bickering in his examination room as he walked in. “What seems to be the problem?” he asked.

“My son eats sweets constantly. I’ve tried telling him that sugar is bad for his health and his teeth,” the woman explained. “But he doesn’t believe me. He’ll listen to you, though. Please tell my son to stop eating sugar.”

The doctor thought to himself for a moment and said, “Bring him back in exactly one week.”

Puzzled, the woman did as instructed and returned one week later. “We’re back,” she said. “I hope you can help me this week.”

The doctor examined the boy’s teeth, took his weight and measurements, and finally said, “Son, I have some bad news for you. You can’t eat any more sugar. It’s not good for you. And if you don’t believe me, I can draw some of your blood and have a test done on it that will prove it to you.”

At the sight of the needle, the boy agreed not to eat any more sugar.

“Thank you, Doctor,” said the woman. “But out of curiosity, why couldn’t you do this last week?”

“Because last week I still ate sugar,” said the doctor. “And it occurred to me that I wouldn’t be much of a doctor if I didn’t follow my own advice.” He knew about walking his talk.