Your Walk vs Your Talk

There is an old saying that is usually shared with all sporting teams that encourages them to lift when they are losing momentum during a game.

When a brave person takes a stand, it stiffens the spines of others.

Billy Graham

To me, this paints a vivid mental picture and is what a leader does in times of adversity and the team has their backs to the wall. One courageous person, does what it takes and stands up against the odds and leads by example. Then a decisive psychological affect starts to compound and becomes contagious to all other players, winning back the momentum and more times than not, winning the game. That shift though, started with one person, a natural leader who sacrificed their own well being and safety for the sake of the team.

Leadership is a skill and like any other, it can be learned, and that means it requires practice.

You don’t just get a promotion to supervisor or manager and all of a sudden you become a leader. As convincing as that two day off site course on leadership was, it doesn’t qualify you as a leader.

The reality is, it takes work. Leadership is not a rank, position or title. If you are a good leader, you work harder and longer than everyone else, you LEAD BY EXAMPLE. The more you do this and practice it, the better you get, but it all comes at a cost, which is your time, experience and stepping up when no one else will. The other hard part about leadership is it is difficult to measure. There is no real metric that measures leadership. It’s an accumulation of lots of little things that anyone of them by themselves is innocuous and useless. Literally pointless by themselves. It is the small things, the one percenters and putting others interests before your own that makes a great leader.

One of my favorite leadership fables is that of Mahatma Gandhi. This story defines the true meaning of leading by example and not following advice, but more so action.

In the 1930’s there was a young boy who had become addicted to and obsessed with eating sugar. His mother decided to get help and took the long and hot journey with her son walking many miles and hours under the scorching sun. 

She finally reached Gandhi and asked him to tell her son to stop eating sugar, it wasn’t good for his health. Gandhi replied, “I cannot tell him that. But you may bring him back in a few weeks and then I will talk to him.” The mother was confused and upset and took the boy home.

Two weeks later she came back. This time Gandhi looked directly at the boy and said “”Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.” The boy nodded his head and promised he wouldn’t. The boy’s mother was puzzled. She asked “Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?”

Gandhi smiled and said, “Two weeks ago I was eating a lot of sugar myself!”

What Lesson Are You Teaching?

You may not know it, but your day-to-day behavior, from the way you drive to the tone of your voice, is shaping the way those around you will act.

For many children and those starting their careers, the most important role models are those who have a regular presence in their lives. They are like a sponge, absorbing everything you say and do.

They learn attitudes, behaviors, prejudices, likes, dislikes, compassion and generosity by watching the way you conduct yourself each day.

How you respond to problems, handle stress, frustrations, treat other people, and deal with responsibilities, loss, and mistakes will impact the lives behind their eyes watching you.

Children especially look up to a variety of role models that help shape how they behave in school, handle relationships, or make difficult decisions. Children will use the example you set, whether it be positive or negative, as a pattern for the way life should be lived.

What we do doesn’t define who we are; who we are defines what we do.

Saying “Do as I say, not as I do” simply does not work.

Let no man imagine that he has no influence

Henry George

Remember the importance of being a positive role model because there is always someone looking up to you.

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