Lead By Example


My dad always used to say, “Do what I say, not what I do.” I remember as a child thinking that was kind of silly advice but not really understanding just how off-centered that line of thinking was exactly. At the time, it seemed like he just did not want me making the same decisions and mistakes in life that he had made. While this was the case, the bigger problem was something that I did not really pick up on until I was in my twenties.

Not only did he know that the way he chose to live his life was definitely not the way he wanted me to live when I got older, but he also had little to no intentions on changing. Listen to the words.

Do what I say. The implication here is that my life should be shaped in the manner that he saw fit. There is definitely a way to act. My words should be your lesson on how to behave.

Not what I do. However, do not pay much attention to the way that I, myself, behave. For if you watch my actions, you will quickly notice that they do not line up with the way I tell you to live your life.

As an adult, I have always struggled with this. Now, I do not mean for myself but just in general. How can you expect those who are following you to develop as they should if you are not setting the example in both what you say and what you do?

My intentions are always for my children to see an example in how I live my life that gives them something positive to base theirs on. It is not good enough for me to simply tell them how to live. They must also see it. This is the absolute essence to leadership. This is how you lead within your house.

However, this lesson carries over into all aspects of life. For those who intend to lead, it must be done with our actions as well as our words. It cannot be one or the other. It must be both.

I read this article by Joe Kleckner on The Good Men Project about leadership that brought this entire package of thoughts back into the forefront of my mind.

Kleckner tell us that,

I was told many times that when you actively embody a particular value (whether it be honesty, integrity, adventure) your actions, thoughts, and overall demeanor tend to reflect that thing.

Within this quote we find a simple truth. The values that we champion as critical for leadership can never simply be talked about. They have to define you. They have to be at the core of who you are as a person. You cannot talk about being honest without being an honest person. That does not work. You cannot tell people that they should conduct themselves with integrity if you are not, yourself, and individual who champions integrity.

Kleckner also tells us that there are two important things to know about leading by example. First, anyone can do it. There are not just a select few who can take up this role while the rest of us just simply wait for instruction. All that is required is that you first display the qualities that you are attempting to get others to latch on to. The second things is that this type of leadership is incredibly effective. People are naturally drawn to a genuine individual. They can see though all of the crap that is often presented to them. They know when someone is being real with them.

That is one area where my dad missed the boat. He wasn’t genuine. He would say one thing but do something completely different. “Son, do what I say, not what I do.”

I look at my own children. What kind of example would that set for them. Instead, I let them judge life based upon the decisions that I make. I am their lense to adulthood. Everything they know to be true about life beyond childhood, they can learn by watching me. I will not mislead them.

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