Leadership by Example

What does it really mean, “Leadership by Example?” This must be one of the most repeated phrases I have heard my entire adult life! The problem is that some of the people that have stated it would not be good examples to follow. Most of those same individuals that shouldn’t have said it in the first place follow up with “Do as I say, not as I do!”

Leadership is one of those topics that most have an opinion on but few are right! One thing for sure is that we all know someone that shaped our opinion, whether good or bad, of leadership. One could say "I’ll know it when I see it” like United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart did to describe his threshold test for obscenity in Jacobellis v. Ohio in 1964. Yes, we all know leaders, but describing what a leader is becomes difficult.

So what does leadership by example really mean?

Someone that leads by example is someone that clearly understands that what they do and who they are as a person sets the stage for all other things to follow. Let’s try to put this into perspective so that it truly makes sense. Why are statistics so overwhelming in households where one parent is an alcoholic the children are much more likely to become one? Leadership by example is the reason! Even a parent that is respected in all other areas of life other than having a drinking problem set their child up to possibly become an alcoholic.

Everything we do, even in our off time, as leader’s is closely measured in one way or another by those that we lead. Another real life example might be a pastor of a church who is single spending the night at a girl friend’s home even if he slept on the couch and nothing sexual took place. Then take and add to that a member of the church sees that the pastor was at the girl friend’s home all night. That one act, even as innocent as it may seem, could bring down the whole church. The reality of this example is that the pastor probably won’t even know why the church is falling apart.

Leaders are held to a much higher standard than the followers. Whether it is fair or not, doesn’t matter! It’s just flat true!

Leadership by example starts and ends with Integrity! The type of integrity that goes way beyond just being honest about things! Being honest is a given. More than being honest with others, integrity is about being honest with yourself. Integrity is being grounded with a set of core moral beliefs that you do not waiver on. A poor example of this may be a leader preaching loyalty at work and then their staff finds out that the individual is cheating on their spouse. There won’t be one person at their organization that will trust them. A leader that will cheat on their spouse will cheat their employees.

So I recommend that you do lead by example, but remember it is a lifelong commitment and not just until you get what you want. Remember that there are two kinds of people that have extraordinarily excellent memories. They are children that have been promised something and employees that have been promised something.

Thank you and May God bless you!

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