Leading by example consistently

Ancient French legend tells the story of a monastery in France that was known throughout Europe for the exceptional leadership of a man known only as Brother Leo. Several monks went on a pilgrimage to meet this extraordinary man to learn from him. As they began their journey, they almost immediately began to argue over who should do certain chores. On the third day of their travels, they met another monk also going to the monastery. He joined them, but didn’t participate in the bickering and did his chores dutifully. When the others would fight about which chores to do, he would simply volunteer to do them himself. On the last day of their journey, others began to follow his example and the bickering stopped. When the monks reached the monastery, they asked to see Brother Leo. The man who greeted them laughed: “But our brother is among you!” He pointed to the man who had joined them on their journey.

Leaders must lead with their actions as well as through their words. Leaders can effectively translate intention into reality by acting on the concepts and messages they teach and the things they say to those around them. Leadership is the act of setting the right example for those who follow. Leadership is about actively demonstrating your belief, not just talking about it. People who say one thing, but do another, eventually lose credibility.

Navy SEALs are trained to be leaders, regardless of age or rank. They are trained to earn trust. People truly follow only those they trust. One of the best ways to build trust with followers is to lead by example, as the Navy SEAL Creed confirms: “I serve with honour on and off the battlefield … I lead by example in all situations”. “Leading by example” can possibly be entrenched through the following:

  • Set an impeccable standard of excellence and live it — establish high expectations at the outset and model the expected behaviour yourself. Be a showcase of excellence. Leaders’ actions set an unspoken standard about what is appropriate and what is not. Through observation, followers learn about acceptable behaviour. They imitate the actions of the leader.

Leading (and living) by example takes strength of character and a firm commitment to do the right thing, at the right time, in the right way and for the right reasons. If the leader consistently behaves in this way, trust develops and team members feel secure. John Maxwell noted: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way”. Lead by example.

Originally published at https://www.stretchforgrowth.com on October 31, 2015.

--

--

Jonathan has spent over 30 years focusing his efforts on developing people throughout the world. He believes that people have the most impact when stretched.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Jonathan Mills

Jonathan has spent over 30 years focusing his efforts on developing people throughout the world. He believes that people have the most impact when stretched.