Lead yourself first…

“The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.”

John Wooden

Leadership doesn’t have anything to do with roles, titles, jobs, etc. If a person is inspiring another to do something different because of their own actions or behaviors, that is leadership. As John Maxwell states, “Leadership is influence.”

Yesterday I wrote about about Catherine and the incredible experience that she created for me through her actions. She was leading through her personal example. I have had a constant stream of thoughts in my mind about her actions and that has influenced me and what I doing and saying to others.

All too often it is easy to get wrapped up in the titles and roles and forget that the most effective, yet basic and simple demonstration of leadership comes through your own actions and behaviors. These actions are rooted in your thoughts so the place to start, if you want to lead by example, is to focus on leading yourself. Set the standard for yourself, and hold yourself accountable to that standard. That becomes leadership for others, regardless of what your title is…

Plant seeds through your actions…

“Your influence on people and situations comes from your ability to be a role model.” 

Capt. John Havlik

I know that I still have behaviors and actions that come from seeds planted over 20 years ago by significant role models and mentors in my life. Those individuals taught me things not through explicit words, but just through their daily actions. They demonstrated servant leadership through their actions and in turn have had a lifelong impact on me.

Who are the role models in your life that have inspired and motivated you? What was it that they did that made an impact on you? Have you taken any of those examples and built them into your life and actions? Your daily actions and examples are planting seeds that you might never see grow but could be incredibly impactful on the lives of others…

Talking with versus about others…

“Never find fault with the absent.”

Alexander Pope

This is a great reminder and one than can be a a tough pill to swallow.  At times it seems much easier to talk about people than to talk with them.  It is something that we all do, but a practice that we must guard against if we want to increase our influence.  What are the dangers that this creates as a leader?

First, if you are finding fault with someone, and talking about it with others, then you are tearing down the walls of trust, not building them up.  The person that you are discussing someone else’s faults with can never be sure that you aren’t doing the exact same thing when they aren’t present.

Second, putting the focus on the person not the problem distracts from whatever the real issue at hand might be.  If you want to be effective in fixing something, then you have to address it head on.

Third, your example to others be creating this type of environment encourages politics and individual agendas.  It does not enhance teamwork or collaboration.  The most effective leaders set the example that others will emulate.  Do you want your team talking about others behind their backs, or addressing challenges with and for each other?

Ask yourself this one question.  “Would I have this conversation with the person in the room?”  If the answer is no, then why not?  Isn’t that the more pressing challenge to figure out?  Talking about people is easy, and cowardly.  Talking with people can be challenging, but courageous.  Which type of leader do you want to be?

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