I’m fascinated great leaders. Those people that can get a group of individuals to act as one and move towards a common goal. Not because they have to, but because they want to! That’s the super power I want, so I’ve been reflecting on the leaders that have had the greatest impact on me. Those individuals that have inspired me to be better and dream bigger. What was their secret?
The common themes I’ve found are they all knew (i) that trust is the foundation upon which we can influence others and (ii) the best way to build trust is to lead by example.
But why is leading by example so powerful? It’s a commitment to aligning your actions and your words. It’s proof you’ve thought about, wrestled with, and believe in what you are saying. It’s a way to inspire others. It provides a path to follow instead of just leaving people with words to consider.
Contrast that with those that lead with words, but not actions. The people with unrealistic expectations because they’ve never done what they are asking you to do. The ones that make you feel bad for struggling to achieve great things, despite having never achieved much themselves. These are the critics of the world in disguise. They prefer to preach because they know acting opens the possibility they may fail. These people are dangerous! Run from them as fast as you can.
I’ve been lucky to experience the power of leading by example. I’ve had bosses, coaches, and mentors walk the talk and seen them stick to their guns in tough situations. They showed their true colors and were repaid with my loyalty. Here’s what I learned from them.
Start by getting very clear on what you believe and why you believe it. That why will help you persevere when your belief is challenged.
Live by that belief day-in and day-out. Tweak it as needed.
Once it has become a part of you, share that belief generously. Explain how you got there, why it’s important, and what living it has done for you.
Align your actions with your words. Never let the two drift apart.
Demonstrate that achieving the larger goal is the result of taking the first step. It’s a hell of a lot easier to follow someone else into the unknown.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
And when you get stuck, remember – If you want to lead, you need loyalty. If you want loyalty, build trust. If you want to build trust, lead by example.