What Kind Of Example Do I Want to Be?

Posted 01.12.2009

A couple of weeks ago, my blogging friend, Dan McCarthy of the Great Leadership blog, wrote a simple and compelling post on leadership.  Noting how easy it is to find examples of poor leadership in government and business these days, Dan makes the point that we should not overlook the great leaders that maybe don’t get the headlines but are around us every day.

In his non-blogging life, Dan manages the leadership development function of a Fortune 500 corporation.  One of the “perks” of that kind of role (both a blessing and a curse actually) is that you are in a position to review the 360 degree feedback of the leaders in your organization.  Sensing that the reality in his organization did not square up with the gloom and doom reported every day, Dan pulled out a couple of handfuls of 360’s and started reviewing the comments.  If you want a simple and compelling reminder of what it really means to lead well, take a couple of minutes to read Dan’s post

As is my wont, I looked through the comments Dan shared with an eye toward identifying the common denominators of the great leaders in his company.  Here are some of the themes I came up with.  Great leaders:

  • Listen
  • Recognize great performers
  • Coach and develop others
  • Motivate through high standards
  • Stay cool under pressure
  • Create a sense of purpose
  • Lead by example

Not one of the leaders in Dan’s sample, but a great one nonetheless! That last one, lead by example, was the most frequently used phrase in Dan’s sample.  As we start this week of leadership, let’s all ask this question, “What kind of example do I want to be today?”  As the list above shows, being a great leader really isn’t all that complex a thing to do.  The behaviors are actually pretty simple.  The challenge is to groove the behaviors so they become habits.  By asking yourself the question, “What kind of example do I want to be today?” you’re giving yourself the opportunity to step back and visualize what’s needed from you as a leader. 

Gandhi famously said, “We must be the change we want to see in the world.”  I have no idea if he regularly asked himself what kind of example he wanted to be, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he did.  That level of leadership intention comes from being thoughtful about what’s needed.