Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
“I am more afraid of an army of 100 sheep led by a lion than an army of 100 lions led by a sheep.” —Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord
“Could you step into my office for a minute, please?”
My heart stopped. It was the Managing Director. I was having a particularly bad day at work. There’d been some mix up and I’d spent several hours trying to get it all sorted out without hampering my team’s deadline. With a feeling of dread, I stepped in.
He was a nice sort. A stickler for perfection, an affable boss and a keen mentor, always looking to teach and pass on knowledge. But I had no way of knowing what he’d say about the mess my team was currently facing.
“I’ve been hearing good things about your organizational skills,” he said with a smile. “I just thought I should pass on what I’ve heard and commend you on doing a good job. Please keep up the great work.”
I stepped out and headed back to my desk feeling elated. The dark clouds parted, a weight rolled off my shoulders and I sat down with renewed vigour to sort out our problem. I’d received just the boost I needed and quickly resolved the situation.
So many years later, I often reflect on that little pep talk. When I chose to move on from that company, my MD was extremely nice about it, even going so far as to write out a glowing recommendation letter. On a bad day, when I begin to lose faith in myself, I sometimes pick up that letter and read it, just to reassure myself.
I was a greenhorn manager, yet to discover my potential, and so it helped that I had management that I could look up to. As I reflect on the salad days of my career, I hope that I have inculcated so many of those qualities of leadership I admired. There’s no better leadership than leadership by action and example.
What makes you a leader? One vital cornerstone of leadership by action and example is belief: Belief in yourself, belief in others and belief in your goal.
Believe in Yourself: Have faith in your own abilities. Demonstrate those abilities to lead by example. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. If you can actually do your team’s job well yourself and not just bark instructions, you’ll earn the team’s respect. Do more, talk less.If you make your credo “follow me”, then live by it and put your money where your mouth is.Leading by action plays a vital part in shaping the culture and setting a standard for your team.
Take charge of situations and do not let them dominate you. Be decisive and take risks. Take responsibility for your actions and the actions of those you lead. Be ready to teach others and pass on your knowledge and expertise. When you believe in yourself enough to lead by example, you earn respect, credibility and loyalty.
Belief in Your Goal: Be committed to your mission and play an essential part of your vision. Dream big and keep moving toward your goal. If you hesitate or second-guess yourself, your team will waiver too and the momentum will be lost.
Have a clear idea as to where you want to go, promote that vision and evoke the same kind of excitement and drive in your team. Keep their work interesting and remain interested in their work. Remind them of their objective, goal or vision from time to time, but don’t bore them with pointless sermonizing. It’s a waste of their time and yours.
Keep your team motivated and allow them opportunities to develop their skills. Skill builds pride and confidence. You stand to gain from that.
Belief in Others: I’ve noticed a lot of managers who tend to undermine the abilities of their team members. Don’t. Respect people and make them feel like they matter. People will look up to you when you make them feel important rather than when you blow your own trumpet and make yourself feel important.
Guide them nicely when they waiver or make a mistake. Publicly praise people who’ve earned it but keep any criticizing one-on-one, civil and behind closed doors. It’s important to treat other people like you would want to be treated yourself.
I love watching those reality shows where bosses go incognito and work alongside their own employees. It’s nice to see the scales fall from their eyes as they realize the problems and pitfalls their staff faces, recognize hard workers who weren’t noticed earlier and make changes in their own management styles based on what they experienced.Rumi guides when he says, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”You are never too old to learn from others and from your own experience.
Finally, be magnanimous enough to recognize skills in team members, acknowledge them, and delegate responsibility to them. Other people have dreams too. These actions could help them pursue those dreams.
Some qualities of leadership transcend boundaries of age, experience and seniority. Leadership by action is one of them. It is quite simple really. As John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.”