Leading isn’t just standing at the front of the field pointing the way forward…it requires walking that field, creating a path that others can see and follow…
We’ve all had the experience at one time or another of being lost…of losing our way. And for some reason, it is one of those things we find difficult to admit…to ourself, let alone someone else. So, instead, we waste inordinate amounts of time walking or driving around…telling ourself that we are almost there, not far away. When we know deep down inside, it would be much easier to put our pride aside and just ask someone for directions, for a little help.
And when we finally do pull over or stop to ask for directions…
We are often supplied with a set of directions that leave us more confounded, confused and frustrated than we were before we asked. We’ve all been there…”Drive two blocks, take a left, then a quick right, then another left at the old brick lumber yard…” “Head down this hallway, take the second left, walk past the conference room, take another left, and it will be your third door on the right.”
So, instead of the directions being helpful, it actually causes higher levels of anxiety and stress…while, still leaving you just as lost and confused as you were before asking.
Except, when that one person you stop to ask, says…
“Hey, let me show you.” “Just a minute, I will take you there.” “Follow me, I will show you the way.”
Think of the relief you feel when you hear those words…”I will show you the way.” How quickly it deescalates your stress and anxiety of being lost. How much better you feel immediately.
Which does not change the fact that you still have to get to the destination on your own. But, now you have some support, some direction.
Which is why it is not only important for leaders to tell the way…they have to show the way. “Leaders go first” is not just a mantra…it is an action. It is necessary.
Great leadership is not only determined by influence, integrity, character, courage, honesty, humility, determination and service…it also requires credibility.
And leadership credibility is not attained through our words…rather, it is gained through our actions. As they say, when our “walk matches up with our talk.”
What many leaders fail to understand and acknowledge is that we are what we model. The best leaders don’t just know how to tell the way…they know how to model and show the way. They don’t demand of others what they are unwilling to do themselves.
Because they understand accountability to expectations begins with them…
Organizational cultures become imbalanced and oppositional…when we try to hold others accountable to expectations we are unwilling to “own” ourselves.