In their incredible book The Leadership Challenge, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner outline 5 great practices of exemplary leadership. “Model the Way” is the very first practice that they discuss which involves leading the way and setting the standard for performance. If you cannot lead yourself effectively, you cannot expect to lead others.
Great leaders understand that leadership at its core is about influence, and they strive to make a positive impact through an effective example. In my opinion, leading the way involves setting the standard for excellence and performance through:
- Developing And Living Your Core Values – You must be able to define the values that are important to you and then align those with the people and organization that you lead and influence. If a core value like mutual respect is important to you but you work with people who don’t share this same value, you will have conflict that must be resolved.
- Being A Principled-Centered Leader – Principles are true no matter whether we believe them or not. For example, the principle of the harvest (“You Reap What You Sow”) is an active principle for farmers. A farmer cannot plant corn and then expect beans to sprout. The same is true for your life. If you sow hard work and preparation, you will reap the benefits of this investment in your life. The reverse is true as well. If you sow minimal effort and procrastination, you will feel the effects of this in a mediocre performance. Principles provide a compass to guide our decisions.
- Effectively Managing Yourself – Time management is a myth! Each of us has 24 hours in a day. We cannot manage time, but we can effectively manage ourselves in the time that we have. Our choices and decisions about how we invest our time become a roadmap for the legacy we are leaving.
- Setting The Right Example For Your Teammates – Setting the right example involves identifying who is in your sphere of influence, understanding your unique gifts, strengths, and talents, and fully exploiting opportunities to create value for people that you can positively impact and for the organization as a whole whether it be your company, your family, or your sports team.
As the father of five boys, I have a huge responsibility and opportunity to present an effective model for them to follow. I know I don’t always model the perfect way, but I am striving to do this every day and grow from those experiences where I failed in the past.
People are watching you. The key question is: How are you impacting the next generation through your leadership example?