Become a Role Model of Excellence for Leadership Sucess
- 24 Best Leadership Practices | Part 8 of 24 -
For many, the term leadership can be defined as one’s ability to influence. Accordingly, perhaps nothing is a more powerful form of influence than being a role model of excellence. As Albert Einstein noted, “setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means.” And, as Albert Schweitzer powerfully stated, “Example is leadership.” Thus, all that leaders want to see from others they must first live and breathe themselves. Simply, leaders must be a role model of excellence driven by values based leadership attributes. As such, leadership is far more about what you practice and how you practice it than in what you preach and how you preach it. Simply, nothing has the power to influence more so than first saying the right words and then setting a good example by living those words. Thus, leadership is about educating, inspiring, and influencing others through excellence in ones actions and speech. As John Quincy Adams noted, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Ultimately, people must buy into the leader; otherwise a vision alone is worthless. Consequently, and because actions do speak louder than words, one must always be a stellar example for others to follow. Simply, leadership is about always being on a concert stage. A pianist is not judged on his words but rather on his performance (i.e., actions). Similarly, leaders actions are being watched and critiqued at all times. Leadership is perhaps the greatest performing art because everyone is constantly looking for not only guidance but also how to act based on a leader's actions. As such, leaders must always think of their moves and words as being constantly projected on a large screen for all to see. Followers are always watching leaders – perhaps even when they least expect it so the notion of being a role model is a 24/7 job. A leader must never let their guard down but instead must instill such a strong values-based leadership core that being a role model of excellence is not a 24/7 act but rather one of deep commitment, ownership, and belief. The moment that leaders are perceived as merely paying lip service to the change efforts, those efforts are doomed. The question than bodes – would one's actions and words anytime throughout the day be one of quality, values, and excellence – so much so that it would be inspiring for others to see and hear it? If the answer is either "no" or "maybe" than one needs to improve their role model capabilities.
In addition, the leader’s ability to be a great or poor role model is highly correlated to the culture of the enterprise. Quite simply, the leader’s mood is catchy in either a positive or negative direction. As they say, “The fish rots from the head.” While it’s easy to say the right words and perhaps to even inspire a shared vision, it is much more difficult to walk the talk by practicing what one preaches. Therefore, being a role model of excellence is vital to success because a cascading effect will trickle down to the entire enterprise based on one’s actions as much as one’s words. As Steve Jobs noted, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected.” Accordingly, the greatest educator is the leader that understands the importance of being not only a visionary leader but also an exemplary example of excellence. As John Wooden noted, “being a role model is the most powerful form of educating.”
Leaders can’t change people but they can certainly influence them through behaviors and actions. Accordingly, great leadership is about unlocking people's potential which can only transpire by "showing" not "telling" them how to be their best self. As John D. Rockefeller noted, “Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” This goal can only be accomplished by first being an excellent role model. Remember, leadership is practiced more in action than in words. Simply, “being is the great explainer (Henry David Thoreau).” If you think you’ve arrived than you still have a long-way to go in the role model journey. Accordingly, be more than you think you can be because in so doing you’ll inspire others to be a better version of themselves. As such, be that role model and educator who’s actions domino across the enterprise in such a way as to inspire values-based decision-making, a purpose driven culture, engagement, innovation, and excellence. As famed theologian Tyron Edwards stated, “People never improve unless they look to some standard or example higher and better than themselves.” Be that standard and that role model of excellence; and, in so doing unlock not only your potential but also the potential of everyone around you.
Read the other best leadership practices HERE.
24 Best Leadership Practices
- Series Overview -
The following article is Part 8 of a 24 part series on leadership (See all 24 best leadership practices HERE). To summarize, leadership is everyone’s business. Moreover, leadership abilities are not some innate talent that some were either born with or not but rather is a highly learnable skill. As such, everyone has the potential to become a great leader as long as one embraces a mindset of continuous improvement. Simply, leadership is not so much about inherent gifts and raw talent but rather the emotional awareness, humility, and perseverance to understand that leadership is a lifelong journey that is never mastered. Indeed, aspiring leaders must acquire the endurance of a marathoner, the musculature of a sprinter, and the mental fortitude to embrace that there is never a finish line but rather an unending goal of continuous transformation.
Ultimately, the leadership journey is not about becoming someone else but instead is about becoming one's best self so that in turn one can help others become their best self. And, while there are many facets that go into successful leadership we have identified 24 best leadership practices all of which are grouped into one of three categories, namely (1) inspire, (2) empower, and (3) innovate (see all 24 practices HERE).
- INSPIRE: To inspire action, great leaders appeal to people's hearts more than their minds. Simply, visionary leaders plan with the mind, lead with the heart, and reflect with the soul.
- EMPOWER: Great leaders empower those they are leading while simultaneously creating a collaborative culture that promotes the notion that together we can accomplish anything as long as we don't care who gets the credit.
- INNOVATE: Visionary leaders embrace change and understand that the term "good enough" is used by the lazy to justify inaction. As such, great leaders disrupt themselves and their companies before others do it for them.
Leadership is the greatest race one will ever run – one without a finish line but also one with an exponential ceiling for those that embrace change, growth, and learning. While the level of employee talent may determine the potential of an organization it is the leader that ultimately unlocks that potential and determines the success of both the organization and its people. Although no leader will be a master at each of the proposed 24 leadership practices, awareness is often the greatest agent for change and continuous improvement. As such, we hope the proposed practices will be of service to you in maximizing not only your leadership potential but also the potential of those around you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joshua Seedman is the founder and chairman of PNI Consulting, a management consulting firm that specializes in global transformations. He has over 20 years of operating and general management experience with expertise in organizational transformations, customer experience, employee engagement, digital transformations, sales & marketing, operational turnarounds, culture/change management, and high-stakes negotiations. His experience includes executive roles within F500 companies, top-tier consulting leadership (McKinsey & Company), over 10 years of global P&L ownership, and corporate lawyer (Davis Polk & Wardwell). He received his MBA from Kellogg School of Management and his Juris Doctor (cum laude) from Northwestern University School of Law.