I love words.
I love how bendable they are.
The way they can shift and contort into different shapes depending on how they are deployed.
I love how often they accidentally reveal the genius hidden in our language.
Double entendres and slant rhymes.
And, other times, I lament how they are misused.
Thrown around casually without an honest examination of what they mean.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “Lead By Example” lately.
My distaste for the idea isn’t new, which comes primarily from the fact that leaders and teams function differently. The qualities of a good leader are not necessarily the same as those of a good teammate. So, if everyone follows the leader, you end up with many chefs and not enough cooks.
But my recent curiosity pulls in a different direction.
Leading by example is usually described as an offshoot of the golden rule.
Instead of “do unto others as you would have them to do you,” it reads, “do what you expect those you follow you to do.”
Go first, in summary.
But that’s not really what leading by example means. At least, I don’t think so.
Leading by example, in practice, is demonstrating the benefits of a specific set of behaviors, not just demonstrating the behaviors themselves.
I’ll give you an example.
If a leader wants his team to show up on time, he should show up on time.
If a leader wants her team to show up on time, her work style should reflect why punctuality has benefited her during her career.
Top of mind that could look like this:
-Having a calm presence in any room because she’s had time to digest her new surroundings.
-Developing a more personal relationship with clients by creating extra time to be curious about them.
-Fixing last-minute mistakes by creating a buffer to realize them and solve the problem before the meeting starts.
I think we’ve all been subject to someone who is both on time AND an absolute asshole.
So, is that person leading my example?
I would argue no.
This is why so many people in the world of personal exploration get stuck on the list of things they need to do and completely lose track of whether or not they are receiving the benefits of their actions.
They’re a bunch of on-time assholes.
Or, more realistically, a bunch of sad people writing their affirmations and gratitudes each morning.
Life is not about getting it right.
Life is about doing the tricky work of separating yourself from the narrative of what your life SHOULD look and feel like and connecting to how it is. And then, choose your actions to move your life in a direction that feels good to you.
Good leadership comes from those who have done this work.
Because good leaders understand that conformity is not the end goal.
Good leaders understand that our unique perspectives and experience, when harnessed and utilized in unison, make outstanding teams.
In some areas, that means that team will reflect the style of the leaders.
And in other areas, if everything is going well, it shouldn’t,
To be clear, I don’t mean to make this sound simple. It isn’t.
I find myself caught in the battle of presenting the platonic ideal of a leader in my mind when what I should do is just be myself.
Because I’m GREAT at being myself, I have a growing list of reasons why living my life in alignment with my inner wisdom is opening doors and creating fantastic opportunities for me.
As such, it is not my goal or job to find a team that is exactly like me.
Quite the opposite, I need a team who can successfully operate as they are.
I want our values and our goals to overlap. Everything else can be flexible and bend, just like words.
I have a hunch that if I continue to lead in this way, I’ll discover some new hidden meanings and clever secrets hidden in the team, too.
I look forward to learning more.
From My Heart to Yours,