Model The Way
Posted by Bryan Kelley
We’ve all heard the saying “Do as I say not as I do.” While this may work, it is a formula that has a very short shelf life. People in general tend to copy others. Sustainable long term leadership needs to begin with great behavior modeling. While this singular trait may come easy to some, for those who tend to struggle with it there is good news. Leadership qualities are not qualities we are simply born with. Leadership qualities are learned and they require you to follow them like a compass. When you make the hard decisions up front and show others how to make those decisions, the business will steer itself.
When it comes to leadership there are no singular die cast molds. Leadership is not a trait you are born with, instead it is a learned science. Leadership in general has many traits and some people may have singular abilities they are gifted with. But in order to be effective and successful, leadership is a comprehensive package that requires discipline and a willingness to learn. One traits of leadership I have learned is called “Model the Way.” It is simple in theory, but can be much tougher in practice. It requires consistency and is obvious to all those around you. Employees, associates, and partners alike all witness your modeling and infer from it your moral compass. Simply put, in leadership your actions must line up with stated objectives. If these actions do not line up, the end result will be a very confused team around you.
Since people tend to copy others, as a leader you must have awareness of your actions. One great example of this can be observed in young children. Anyone who is a parent can fully understand why good modeling is important. People in general tend to imitate everything they see, both good and bad. Children act on modeling quicker than adults, and when they model bad behavior it is much more obvious. The first curse word coming out of your toddlers mouth at the wrong time will not only embarrass you, but it might in fact horrify you. On the converse good behavior can be copied just as easily and will have dramatically different results. My youngest daughter learned her thank-you’s and pleases quite early. This led to compliments from other adults around the neighborhood and tons of positive reinforcement. Although it may not appear as rapidly, modeling will work the same with employees and coworkers. They will follow your lead either good or bad.
I recently spoke with someone who I find exemplifies the trait of “model the way.” I asked him about his business practice with regard to business planning. His response to me was that he doesn’t spend hours planning he just makes the right decisions up front. If you always do the “right thing” your business plan can be simplified. If you define your value system, it becomes easier for the rest of your team to make decisions. You can empower those around you so it becomes autonomous.
Make the hard decisions up front and understand that your entire team is watching you. When you act in frustration, realize that others may follow your lead. Modeling the way is no easy task, but if you hold yourself accountable to it, the results are worth the effort. Since all leadership traits can be learned, understand and be aware of your actions. Most of all, if you do screw up do not be afraid to admit it and move on. Leadership takes practice and great leadership is no accident.
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