Are you leading by example?

When talking about leadership there are words like ”optimism”, ”freedom”, ”enabling” and ”motivation” along with other words that sound very good that are being thrown around by people who probably mean well. However, they may be missing out on the biggest difference maker and what should be the starting point of all leadership, regardless if it’s in business or in sports.

Imagine that you start a new job tomorrow at a company that you always dreamed to work at. This job is, at least on paper, everything that you always wanted. When you walk through the door of your new company there is a smile on your face and the feeling of motivation to succeed flows through your body. The receptionist welcomes you with a low toned voice while avoiding eye contact and you notice that there is no smile even though the words that come out of the receptionists mouth normally promote smiling by most people. You think it is strange that this is the way you are welcomed by your new co-worker, but maybe this person is only having ”a bad day”. However, after spending 10 minutes in the office with your new boss you get a feeling that the receptionist wasn’t only having a ”bad day” but that there might be something more to this picture. In those 10 minutes your boss avoided eye contact the whole time, never smiled, interrupted you multiple times and actually yelled at his assistant once.

Now, after your meeting with the boss it seems obvious to you that the reason for what you perceived as strange behavior from the receptionist was actually the result of the culture at this company. But you wonder how it could be possible that such a good organization that undoubtedly has many competent people that are some of the best in their fields can rot and become a place where people look like they’re miserable?

The answer starts at the top with the leadership and trickle down the organization. Even though the boss used all of the fancy words it didn’t matter since they where not said with sincerity and the actions didn’t match the words. If you are a parent, you know all about this fact, that your child will do what you do – not what you say. This also holds true in leadership, and in the same way that you have to be a good role model for your kids, you have to be a role model for your players. If you as the leader of the company goes home a quarter earlier then everyone else everyday, how can you expect that your employees will put in the extra hours for free? If you are the coach of a team and show up 10 minutes late to every training, how can you demand that your players show up on time? It’s impossible, but still it’s done everyday all over the world. So, to become a good leader, the first step is to start leading by example. Only demand of others what you are willing to sacrifice yourself, or in other words, be a (good) role model for your organization!

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4 thoughts on “Are you leading by example?

  1. I like this post. In sports you often hear about leadership and the different styles of such leadership. Leading by example is the one that is often mentioned and while I agree that in any picture perfect situation, leading by example, would be a good method to lead by. However, it is often so that a leader do not necessarily hold the best qualities of any given situation and it makes me think. Is it the leader that needs to lead by example? or is it the leaders job to understand the strengths and weaknesses of all those involved? Take your case as an example. The top leader is not a “happy-go- lucky” guy that appreciates the power of positive interaction. Does he have to be? Or is it ok if he, as a leader, understands his limitations? Again back to the example. Knowing his limitations, he hires someone to make sure the culture of the firm is a good one. It is not that he is not willing to sacrifice that within himself, more than it is the fact that he just sees his own limitation. In my eyes it is still a good leader to understand the dynamics of his team, and make the best out of all the pieces of the team. For a football player like myself, the captain might not always be the best runner, passer, the most creative or the one scoring on demand when the team needs him/her to. The captain should be chosen by their leadership qualities, and the best captains I have had, are the ones who are “logistically” strong and know who’s strings to pull when. At times you need the terrier on the team to step it up, while other times you need the maestro to do the same. The captain does not necessarily need to possess the skills, to go in front and lead by example, but they need to know who to encourage to do so.

    When it comes to stuff like putting in the hours, and showing heart and dedication, it is a different story. You would expect that from anyone and all eyes would be on the captain. I am more talking about the process to the goal… how to we get there and who do we use. Being a captain is understanding your personell as much as it is understanding the game development. You could argue that it is more of a coaching role, but I see a captain as an extension of their coach. I would want that in my captain if I was the coach anyways.


    1. Hi Lisa-Marie,

      Thank you for the comment!

      I agree with you that the leader doesn’t need to be a “happy-go-lucky” character to be a good leader. However, I do think he needs to be able to nurture positive interactions with his employees in order to make them able to grow as human beings. How that positive interaction looks is defined by the personality of the leader, it could look very different from person to person.

      I think that as a leader you first have to lead yourself before you can lead others (successfully) and never demand of others what you are not willing to sacrifice yourself.

      Thank you!


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