Leadership Inspirations For Excellence (LIFE) Series….By Lere Baale
AFRICAN LEADERS NEED TO WALK THE TALK BY LEADING BY EXAMPLE
“Words Inspire but only Actions Transform” – Lere Baale
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection which is noblest; Second by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest” - Confucius
Dedication to an African Hero Our discussion under ―African Leaders need to Lead by Example‖ starting today is dedicated to an unsung African Hero, a genuine Leader who walked his talk and led by example.
Ayodele Oluwatuminu Awojobi (March 12, 1937 – September 23, 1984), also known by the nicknames "Dead Easy", "The Akoka Giant", and "Macbeth", was a true African Leader, academic, author, inventor, social crusader and activist. He was considered a scholarly genius by his teachers and peers alike. He quickly advanced in his field to become the youngest professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Lagos, Nigeria in 1974 aged 37. Earlier the same year, he became the first African to be awarded the degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) in Mechanical Engineering at the then Imperial College of Science and Technology,
London (now Imperial College London) - a degree only exceptionally and rarely awarded to a scholar under the age of 40. His research papers, particularly in the field of vibration, are still cited by international research fellows in Engineering as lately as the year 2011, and are archived by such publishers as the Royal Society.
Early life Born in Oshodi, Lagos State - Nigeria, Awojobi‘s father, Chief Daniel Adekoya Awojobi, was a stationmaster at the Nigerian Railway who hailed from Ikorodu in Lagos State. His mother, Comfort Bamidele Awojobi (née Adetunji), was a petty trader who hailed from Modakeke, Ile-Ife, Osun State. Between 1942 and 1947, he attended St. Peter‘s Primary School, Faji, Lagos.
It was while at his secondary school, the CMS Grammar School, Lagos, that his academic traits began to manifest. Not only was he seen to be gifted in mathematics and the sciences, he was comfortable also in the arts, becoming a member of the school‘s literary and debating society. It was during this period that he earned the nickname, "Macbeth": William Shakespeare‘s famous play, Macbeth, was to be staged in the school. The lead actor took ill a week before, and so Ayodele was called upon to play the lead role in his stead. It is said that not only
did Ayodele master his lines as lead actor, but also the entire play, such that he was able to prompt the cast whenever they forgot their lines.
Academic achievements Ayodele was a straight-Aâ€˜s secondary school student, while at the CMS Grammar school, passing his West African School Certificate examinations with a record eight distinctions in 1955. He proceeded to the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Ibadan, for his General Certificate of Examinations, GCE (Advanced Level), where in 1958 he sat for, and obtained distinctions in all his papers: Physics, Pure Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. In 1962 Awojobi was awarded his first degree in Mechanical Engineering â€“ a BSc (Eng) London, with outstanding first class honours, at the then Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria (now Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria). He had studied there on a federal government scholarship won on the merit of his performance in the GCE (Advanced-level) examinations of 1958. It was said by Akintola Ajai (himself an engineering graduate of the University of London), that when Awojobi arrived at the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology, Zaria, he boasted openly saying that it was his intention to finish the whole course within a period of three years only; an impracticable feat due to the fact that nowhere was the BSc Mechanical Engineering curriculum designed to run less than four years. Ayodele
accomplished it in three years just as he had predicted. The federal government awarded Awojobi another scholarship in 1962 to study further at the post-graduate level in the field of Mechanical Engineering at the Imperial College of the University of London (now Imperial College London). He completed the course, successfully defending his thesis, and was awarded a PhD in Mechanical Engineering in 1966.
Landmark degree award After a period teaching at the University of Lagos, he returned to the Imperial College London for a research study in the field of Vibration, and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science, DSc. He was the first African to be awarded the Doctor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, at the Imperial College London. The first university to admit an individual to this degree was in fact the University of London in 1860. The status of the degree has declined, however, because it is not widely understood but in former times the doctorate in science was regarded as a greater distinction than a professorial chair. It is in fact a higher tier of research doctorates, awarded on the basis of a formally submitted portfolio of published research of a very high standard. To have received the award at the age of 37 is significant, more so as the degree is only exceptionally and rarely awarded to a scholar under the age of 40.
Educator On his return from England in 1966 Awojobi enrolled as a lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering, University of Lagos, Akoka. His teaching methods endeared him to his engineering students, whose public chants: ―Dead easy... Dead easy...‖, would often be heard shouted in his direction as he went along the campus grounds. He quickly rose in the ranks among his colleagues and would later become the Head of Department, Mechanical Engineering, University of Lagos. Awojobi went back to London to study for his Doctorate. He returned in 1974 and was made an associate professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Lagos. However, one week after having been appointed associate professor, the University of Lagos Senate, after receiving news that Awojobi had just been awarded the degree of Doctor of Science (DSc), immediately appointed him professor in Mechanical Engineering, making him the youngest professor in the Faculty of Engineering, University of Lagos and the first ever to be expressly promoted from associate to full professorship within a week. By nature, Ayodele Awojobi was a passionate teacher. He imparted knowledge at various other levels, even as he contended with his day job as a full-time professor and university lecturer. He envisaged his country as a whole becoming more advanced, technologically – this was exemplified when he refused lucrative offers from
commercial outfits for his Autonov 1 invention, he rather preferring to preserve his design for his country's future benefit. He engaged with great educators of his, and earlier generations, such as the late nationalist and Yoruba leader, Obafemi Awolowo (who forwarded several of Ayodeleâ€˜s educational books), the late activist, social crusader and educator, Tai Solarin, and the once Lagos State governor, Lateef Kayode Jakande, who achieved free education at all educational levels in Lagos State, Nigeria. Jakande believed in Awolowo's visionary ideas about the way forward for the nation, particularly in Awolowo's resounding theme of qualitative and quantitative education across the nation, free of over-bearing school fees. Ayodele Awojobi became, at one time, the chairman, Lagos State Schoolâ€˜s Management Board, out of his concern for ways to better improve the problems inherent in secondary school education in Lagos State, Nigeria. He desired that all his children go to public schools. The older ones all did. Such was his vision and hope that the country would some day attain equitable distribution in the quality of education cutting across different social strata. He authored several books for both the secondary and tertiary levels of education in Nigeria. His natural propensity to inform, to educate, drove him to become, in the early 1970s, a quiz-master on national television. The quiz-show, Mastermind, consisted of weekly contestants
taking turns in isolation on "the hot-seat", whereupon various categories of questions would be thrown at them.
Inventor While as a lecturer in the University of Lagos, Awojobi successfully converted his own family car, an Opel Record, from right-hand drive to a left-hand drive. He tinkered further with motor engines when he acquired an army-type jeep and proceeded to invent a second steering-wheel mechanism, adjoined to the preexisting engine at the rear end, so that the vehicle was able to move in both forward and backward directions with all four pre-existing gears. This gave the hybrid vehicle, which he christened Autonov 1, the ability to achieve its highest speeds at a moment's notice, in the normal reverse direction. He highlighted the advantage this might offer to army vehicles, as an example, that might need to make a fast retreat, in a cul-de-sac or ambush situation.
Activist Ayodele Awojobi, in the wake of the presidential election results in 1983 that returned the then incumbent, Shehu Shagari as President in the Nigerian Second Republic, became very vocal in the national newspapers and magazines, going as far as suing the Federal Government of Nigeria for what he strongly believed was a
widespread election rigging. With all his court cases against the Nigerian government thrown out of court, he delved into the law books, himself being only a mechanical engineer, claiming that he would earn his law degrees in record time, to enable him better argue with the opposition at the federal courts. He used the universities as a bastion, going from campus to campus to make speeches at student-rallies, hoping to sensitize them to what he perceived as the ills of corrupt African governments including the loss of N2.8b in NNPC account in 1977. Ayodele Awojobi authored several political books over the course of his ideological struggles against perceived, corrupt African governments. These books were usually made available during his public rallies or symposiums.
Political ambition Any intention Ayodele Awojobi ever had of entering partisan politics, was revealed by the man himself when he spoke on national television, saying: "At the age of 65, I will have built the infrastructure. There would be very few illiterates in Nigeria when I mount the soapbox. Then, I will go into proper politics".
Death Ayodele Awojobi died in the morning of Sunday, September 23, 1984, at the age of 47. His death made headline news in most of the national newspapers for days
following. He was survived by his wife, Mrs Iyabode Mabel Awojobi (née Odetunde), and children.
Tribute Usually every year till date, a tribute or two in Ayodele's honour would be published in the form of an article in a national newspaper, such as the one published by The Nation on November 5, 2009, entitled "Tribute to Ayodele Awojobi". In October 2009, the governor of Lagos State Babatunde Raji Fashola, another African leader who walks the talk and leads by example dedicated a statue of Awojobi at Onike Roundabout, Yaba, Lagos, in a garden named after him. On September 23, 2010, Birrel Street – a prominent street in Yaba Local Government Council Area – was renamed "Prof. Ayodele Awojobi Avenue", a further tribute to Awojobi's memory.
A life of walking the talk and leading by example He remained a great source of inspiration to me from my first contact with him in 1977 as an undergraduate. He should have been included in the list of great Africans honoured during Nigeria's Centenary Celebrations. Excellence is usually celebrated by those who appreciate excellence and only the deep can call on the deep. His inclusion would have added more feathers to the cap of current Nigeria's
Leaders and also showcase them as celebrating scholarship, excellence and those who truly leads by example. He was a genuine African Leader who moved freely among the poor without mobile police or Security Guards, and decided to contribute his quota practically in Africa rather than being away in Europe or America to contribute from a distance like most of our current so called "Experts" in Diaspora who are essentially theorists. He refused to neither bow nor run away from Africa even though he was severally harassed by our tyrannical "leaders" in authority at both University level and National level. He publicized the "Missing N2.8b oil money from NNPC account" and actively raised the consciousness of the led and more especially the students in the Universities (under NUNS) who protested and pursued the issue until the money was found and returned into the Nigeria National Account. He made far reaching contributions in Mechanical Engineering, on University Administration, on Politics, etc. and truly led by example during his life time. He was a true African who served his people till he was recalled back home by His Creator. His contributions is worthy of recognition by African Leaders.
This piece is dedicated to this man in recognition of his professional excellence and outstanding contributions to Africa. It is likely to be a great omission that does not portray our leaders in good light that this great African was not mentioned on
the Nigeria's Centenary Awardees list. He touched more lives positively during his life time and brought great glory to Africa than most of the so called leaders who were recognized. Professor Ayodele Awojobi, a true African Icon and Hero; and can possibly be referred to as the other Africa's "Mandiba Mandela" of Mechanical Engineering, Academics and Social Activism.
Africans Leaders are yet to
appreciate the fact that in order to promote excellence as a culture, they must lead by example and walk the talk in celebrating genuine Heros like Professor Ayodele Awojobi.
Leading By Example as a way of Walking The Talk We constantly hear the phrase, ―Lead by example.‖ As leaders, we want our subordinates and followers to be able to look up to us; it‘s good for business! Yet, more and more, we are witnessing leaders fall from grace as their indiscretions or illegal actions come to light. Evidently, today‘s leaders need a better understanding of this phrase.
Most people want to follow someone who has a strong sense of direction and casts a vision that resonates with them. Though this sounds like a simple task, it really isn‘t. Leading is a word casually used and rarely understood. By incorporating certain attitudes and practices into your life, you not only improve
your life, but begin to fashion yourself into the kind of person that others will follow and emulate, which is the very definition of leading by example. Life is a creative art and expectations are often self-fulfilling. If we expect life to be good, if we believe it is filled with opportunities and cause for celebration, then we will notice those things and live so as to promote them, even without conscious intent. However, if we believe life is a marathon of unremitting toil and scarcity, then toil and scarcity will be all that we find and experience, and we will inadvertently create the circumstances that promote them.
In our fast-paced, technological society, people are constantly bombarded with visual and auditory messages. Some leaders rely on these signs or they look to others to help them make decisions. Yet, when leading from the front, there are no signs to guide or direct us. Good leaders make decisions based upon the best evidence available to them. They also listen to their people. They do not worry about pleasing the person on their left or right, but they are concerned about doing what is right and fair. Their credibility is at stake here.
Not sure of what behaviors are worthy of emulation? Who is your hero? What type of person do you look up to and admire? In general, people who speak well and kindly of others, are courteous and respectful, work hard, and treat others as they
would like to be treated are seen as leaders. Remember, being a leader is more than a titleâ€” it is an action. The most important part of this equation is that leaders must never expect others to do what they would not do. You must be fair, firm, friendly, and dependable. In this time of turmoil and uncertainty, people are clamoring for clear and real leadership. Are you willing to answer the call and lead by example?
There are several elected African Politicians who ask the masses to live a low profile and tighten their belts while they are busy spending huge amount of the budget on avoidable scandalous allowances and irrelevant priorities including multiple jets and elitist accommodation to improve their comfort levels while the masses wallow in abject poverty. There are several African Presidents who fight corruption only in the media but look sideways while their Appointees steal not only the present but also the future of their countries. There are the bosses who tell everyone to stay late, and then leave promptly at 5:00pm to go clubbing. There are supervisors who criticize everyone for spending time on the Internet, but discovered to be buying groceries online in the middle of the afternoon. There are Chief Financial Officers who recommend layoffs to stop "unnecessary spending," but then buy themselves avoidable brand-new luxury office furniture. Do you know any of these people?
There's hardly anything worse for organization morale than leaders who practice the "Do as I say, not as I do" philosophy. When this happens, you can almost see the loss of enthusiasm and goodwill among the staff and followers. It's like watching the air go out of a balloon – and cynicism and disappointment usually take its place.
No matter what the situation is, double standards – witnessing people say one thing and then doing another – always feel like betrayals. African Leaders are experts in betraying the very people who work hard to elect them into positions of power. Double standards can be very destructive. When Leaders betray their followers, you can probably remember that sense of disappointment and letdown.
If you're in a leadership position, then you know that you have a responsibility to your team. They look to you for guidance and strength; that's part of what being a leader is. And a big part of your responsibility is to lead them with your own actions.
So, why is it so important to lead by example; and what happens when you don't?
Why Leading By Example Matters There's an old saying about the difference between a manager and a leader: "Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things." (It's best to be both a manager and a leader – they're just different processes.) Modern Leaders combine efficiency, effectiveness and adaptability.
As a leader, part of your job is to inspire the people around you to push themselves – and, in turn, the organization – to greatness. To do this, you must show them the way by doing it yourself.
Stop and think about the inspiring people who have changed the world with their examples. Consider what Mahatma Gandhi accomplished through his actions: He spent most of his adult life living what he preached to others. He was committed to nonviolent resistance to protest injustice, and people followed in his footsteps. He led them, and India, to independence – because his life proved, by example, that it could be done.
Although Gandhi's situation is very different from yours, the principle is the same. When you lead by example, you create a picture of what's possible. People can look at you and say, "Well, if he can do it, I can do it." When you lead by example, you make it easy for others to follow you.
Look at legendary businessman, Jack Welch of General Electric. Jack Welch knew that to push GE to new heights, he had to turn everything upside down. So that's just what he did. He developed the whole idea of a "boundary-less organization." This means that everyone is free to brainstorm and think of ideas â€“ instead of waiting for someone "higher up" in the bureaucracy to think of them first. He wanted his team turned loose, and he promised to listen to ideas from anyone in the company. And he did. Everyone from the lowest line workers to senior managers got his attention â€“ if they had something to say or a new idea that might make the company better. It wasn't just talk, and it didn't take his team long to figure that out. Jack Welch stayed true to his passions and what he knew was right. As a result, GE became an incredibly successful company under his management. His team was always willing to follow his lead, because the people within it knew that he always kept his word.
What does this mean for you as a leader of a small organization or of a nation? If you give yourself to your team and show them the way by your words and actions, then, most likely, they'll follow you anywhere.
When You Don't Lead by Example We've seen just how powerful it can be to lead by example. But what happens when you don't follow this rule? How does your team feel when you tell them to do one thing, and then you do the exact opposite?
As we said earlier, if this ever happened to you, then it shouldn't be hard to remember how angry and disappointed you were. When leaders don't "practice what they preach," it can be almost impossible for a team to work together successfully. How can anyone trust a leader who talks about one thing, but does another? Consider what might have happened if Gandhi had, even one time, been in a physical fight with his opposition. His important message of nonviolent protest would probably have been much harder to believe after that. His followers would have looked at him with suspicion and distrust. The chances of them getting into physical arguments or committing acts of violence probably would have increased dramatically.
Do you think that Alexander the Great's soldiers would have fought so hard for him if he had sat on top of a hill, safe from the battle? Probably not. He would have been just another average general in our history books, instead of the example of a successful leader that we know today.
And so it is with your team. If you say one thing and do another, they likely won't follow you enthusiastically. Why should they? Everything you tell them after that may meet with suspicion and doubt. They may not trust that you're doing the right thing, or that you know what you're talking about. They may no longer believe in you. Good leaders push their people forward with excitement, inspiration, trust, and vision. If you lead a team that doesn't trust you, productivity will drop. Enthusiasm may disappear. The vision you're trying so hard to make happen may lose its appeal, all because your team doesn't trust you anymore.
Key Points Good leadership takes strength of character and a firm commitment to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason. This means doing what you say, when you say it. If your team can't trust you, you'll probably never lead them to greatness. Leading â€“ and living â€“ by example isn't as hard as it might sound. It's really the easiest path. If your team knows that you'll also do whatever you expect
from them, they'll likely work hard to help you achieve your goal. Mahatma Gandhi and Alexander the Great helped change the world because they lived by example â€“ and, as a result, they accomplished great things.
Apply This to Your Life If you ask a co-worker to do something, make sure you'd be willing to do it yourself. If you implement new rules for the office, then follow those rules just as closely as you expect everyone else to follow them. For example, if the new rule is "no personal calls at work," then don't talk to your spouse at work. You'll be seen as dishonest, and your staff may become angry and start disobeying you. Look closely at your own behavior. If you criticize people for interrupting, but you constantly do it yourself, you need to fix this. Yes, you want people to pay attention to one another and listen to all viewpoints, so demonstrate this yourself. If, in the spirit of goodwill, you make a rule for everyone to leave the office at 5:00 p.m., then you need to do it too. If you stay late to get more work done, your team may feel guilty and start staying late too, which can destroy the whole purpose of the rule. The same is true for something like a lunch break â€“ if you want your team to take a full hour to rest and relax, then you need to do it too.
Leading by Example
In my work with people in all types of organizations, one of the topics of greatest interest is leadership. We all know that we need to demonstrate leadership, but the concept of leadership and its application are complex and elusive.
In our previous issues, we discussed leadership, what it is and how to apply it. Here is a story to help illustrate one of the important characteristics of a successful leader.
Sheep have often been the subject of metaphorical messages. They have been the subject of everything from sleep remedies to symbols of the once-lost-and-nowfound. After a couple of years as I study the sheep, I have come to know why.
A husband and wife living on about a quarter acre of unused pasture, bought a sheep and named her Goodness. After a short while, it became clear that the pasture was not sufficient feed for even one sheep. Ironically, while the family was paying for hay to supplement the sheepâ€˜s diet, they were also paying for gasoline to mow the lawn but a few inches from her pasture, so they constructed a portable wire fence that allowed them to let her feed on small portions of the lawn at a time.
One day, the husband looked out to see Goodness loose well beyond the portable fence. He panicked and called for his wife to help him capture the sheep. Not hearing a response immediately, he ran to chase the sheep back into the pasture. Getting a sheep to pass through a five-foot gate in a fence a couple of hundred feet long is like pushing a string. He could not get the sheep to go where he wanted her to go.
All the while he continued to call for his wife. Soon the wife appeared around the corner of the house, and after telling him to halt his efforts, she simply ran past the sheep and headed for the gate leading to the pasture. Seeing this, Goodness bolted after the wife. Shortly after the wife had cleared the gate, so did the sheep, and the gate closed quickly behind. Goodness was soon treated to an extra portion of hay.
This husband was in shock. His hard work resulted in frustration. His wifeâ€˜s simple efforts were completely successful, to the satisfaction of all involved. What is the lesson in the story?
What are we to learn from this experience? This experience shouted of how we react to different leadership styles.
Yes, many people have been very successful ―leading‖ others with a technique similar to what the husband employed in his vain efforts to get Goodness back in the pasture. Show them all the options for where you do NOT want them to go, tell them what you will do if they take one of those options, and out of fear they will go where you want them to go. Maybe.
But this tactic is a lot of work, and not much fun for the leader or those we want to lead. It is far more effective to know where we want the flock to go (have a vision), run in that direction (sharing the vision), and equip and inspire the flock to follow (The wife had done this before, so Goodness was inspired to follow because she knew fresh hay would be her reward).
Make sure you are willing to do what it takes to facilitate attaining the collective organizations vision. This includes how you equip and support your team, but it also includes your willingness to do whatever it is you ask your team to do. Be visible. Don‘t lead from the corner office. Let your team see you, regularly. Participate. Don‘t just share your vision, provide some resources, then step aside. To the degree possible, demonstrate in tangible ways that you are willing to be a part of attaining this vision in practical, visible ways. Work alongside your team.
Recognize the need for regular feedback. Let people know how they are doing, individually and collectively. Offer perpetual encouragement. Tell your team that you are confident in them, that they are doing a good job, that the vision is indeed attainable. Constantly illustrate and define the vision. Give examples of what it will look like in terms relevant to the audience. Explain why current actions will support achieving it.
TO BE CONTINUED - By Lere Baale â€“ Director - Business School Netherlands, & Howes Consulting Group.
Tips on How to Walk Your Talk
If you work in an organization, you‘ve heard this complaint repeatedly. Leaders and managers say they want change and continuous improvement but their actions do not match their words.
The leaders‘ exhortations to employees ring false when their subsequent actions contradict their words. A CEO once asked me, ―Why do they do what I do and not what I tell them to do?‖ Another asked, ―Do I really have to change, too?‖ These are scary questions coming from leaders.
The power of an organization‘s leaders in creating the organization‘s values, environment, culture and actions is immeasurable. Want to know how to ―walk your talk‖ to enable organization change and improvement? Do you want to take the power away from the oft-repeated employee complaint that managers don‘t walk their talk? Start here to learn how to walk your talk. Or, use these ideas to help your organization‘s leaders and managers walk theirs. It‘s the shortest journey to empower change and the work environment they desire.
The most important tip comes first. If you do this first action well, the rest will follow more naturally. If the ideas you are promoting are congruent with your core beliefs and values, these actions will come easily, too. So, start with a deep
understanding of ―why‖ you want to see the change or improvement and what change or improvement you want to see. Make certain it is congruent with what you deeply believe. Then, understand and follow these guidelines.
You also need to model the behavior you want to see from others. There is nothing more powerful for employees than observing the ―big bosses‖ do the actions or behaviors they are requesting from others. As Mahatma Gandhi said, ―Become the change you wish to see in the world." And, it will happen.
If you make a rule or design a process, follow it, until you decide to change it. Why would employees follow the rules if the rule makers don‘t?
Act as if you are part of the team, not always the head of it. Dig in and do actual work, too. People will appreciate that you are personally knowledgeable about the effort needed to get the work done. They will trust your leadership because you have undergone their experience.
Help people achieve the goals that are important to them, as well as the goals that are important to you. Make sure there is something for each of you that will result from the effort and work.
Do what you say you're going to do. Don‘t make rash promises that you can‘t keep. People want to trust you and your leadership.
Build commitment to your organization‘s big goal.(You do have a big, overarching goal, don‘t you?) Other than to make money, why does your organization exist?
Use every possible communication tool to build commitment and support for the big goal, your organization‘s values, and the culture you want to create. This includes what you discuss at meetings, in your corporate blog, on your Intranet, in social media, and so forth. I believe that everything rises and falls with leadership so I passionately encourage people around me to empower themselves and take leadership.
Hold strategic conversations with people so people are clear about expectations and direction. Great Leaders hold strategic conversations with as many groups as possible. In order to build internal confidence, stimulate cross-boundary cooperation, and spark new-product speed to market, great Leaders sponsor what they call ‗strategic conversations‘: dialogues that center around a focused set of themes that they believe will define organizations future.
Ask senior managers to police themselves. They must provide feedback to each other when they fail to walk their talk. It is not up to the second level managers and other employees to point out inconsistencies. (Confronting a manager takes courage, facts and a broad understanding of the organization.) Senior managers must be accountable to each other for their own behavior.
In 1513, Machiavelli wrote, “There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old system and merely lukewarm defenders in those who would gain by the new one.”
Given these thoughts from Machiavelli - true for centuries – provide leadership and sponsorship through walking your talk. Incorporate these tips and behaviors to ensure the success of your organization. Walk your talk.
Applying Leadership by example
Leading by example is one leadership quality that has different views. In today‘s world of equality for all, this quality has reduced relevance. In the earlier days of emperors and kings, and rigid hierarchy in society, when a leader bent down to the level of the common man and got his hands dirty, the effect on the team used to be magical. In today‘s environment, with the breakdown of social hierarchies, the ―do as I direct‖ really doesn‘t work. People see through it very quickly and have no problems in opposing that kind of a directive. So ―do as I do‖ seems to be the conventional norm. In our leadership survey analysis, ―leads by example‖ has been highlighted as a desirable quality in a leader. But can a leader really step down and ―do things‖ every time to gain a better following and winning loyalty?
There are some situations/occasions where you as a leader must roll up your sleeves and show the team how things are done. Some of these situations or occasions are as follows:
Parent-child When raising a child, it is very important that the parent(s) exhibit those qualities, behavior and discipline that they expect the child to develop. If a parent is totally disorganized, the child picks it up and it is very difficult to change such habits. The language spoken by parents in the house, the demeanor and attitude gets
picked up and ingrained in the child. There is really no other way than for the parent to lead by setting a good example for the child to follow. If you are an avid reader, your kids will likely grow up loving to read.
Personality flaws Similar to the parent-child, in the work environment any personality flaws or consistent lack of adherence to protocol/procedures gets picked up by the team. If such behavior continues and no deterrence is seen, the team somehow picks up the pattern and follows it. If a manager sets up meetings that take up the appropriate amount of time, starts those meetings on time and ensures that only the interested and affected persons are invited, it becomes much easier for the same manager to demand similar behavior from her team.
When you are a subject-matter expert I have seen this in action multiple times. A leader, who is a subject matter expert, comes to the assistance of a struggling team member, and simply does that little bit using his subject matter expertise. This wins over the team members and helps the team member get over the hump. Such behavior instantly evokes awe and respect in the team member and deference, loyalty and trust follow.
Helping/training a rookie or a new recruit When someone is new in a school, at work or in a neighborhood, the person or veteran who takes the rookie under her wing and shows the person around, gets respect and builds a feeling of loyalty in the mind of the rookie. Almost every person I know can relate stories about their first few days at work, in a new neighborhood, organization or even in a new country. And in each one of those stories you can hear a vivid description of a person that helped our story-teller in those early and unfamiliar times. When you encounter such a situation, as a leader it is the best time to make a solid impression on a new person.
Now there are other situations when it is not a good idea for the leader to step in and take things into her own hands. Some of those situations are as follows:
When you are not the expert It is better to step aside and let the expert do her work; better still, order pizzas or bring baked cookies to the team when they are busy doing their thing.
When you can contribute in a different way
As one of my old bosses used to say, â€•You will certainly get help. It may not be what you want, but you will certainly be helpedâ€–. If you can pull the right strings and empower a team member to accomplish her task smoothly, that is an option. Alternatively, if you can creatively devise another solution to the problem faced by the team, instead of chipping in and struggling along with the team, this will be noticed and appreciated by the team as well.
When your time is better spent in NOT doing that job Many times I see very senior executives step in and perform tasks that are the duties of much junior personnel. This is NOT leading by example. Sure, you can do the job better and accomplish the task. But the opportunity cost of spending your time in doing that task is huge. For example, if a CFO spends an hour reviewing an IT procedure on financial security controls, it is not a good use of his time. Sure, the CFO can bring great insights, correct the procedure and provide creative suggestions as well. But the hour could have been better utilized by meeting with company investors or reviewing an important investment proposal for the company.
Walking the Talk â€“ Do as I do : How True Leaders Lead by Example
Nothing builds and sustains credibility like a boss who leads by example. Whether you take the time to chat with new employees in the kitchen, help out with a massive mailing, or are the first to ask the hard questions, you alone are responsible for setting company standards and expectations. Actions still speak louder than words, particularly when your philosophies and behavior motivate people to do their best work. Doing otherwise only confuses staff and slows momentum. Good leaders must lead by example. By walking your talk, you become a person others want to follow. When leaders say one thing, but do another, they erode trust--a critical element of productive leadership.
Successful people who led by example are able to sustain their success because the following strategies ultimately allow them to increase the value of their organizationâ€˜s brand â€“ while at the same time minimize the operating risk profile. They serve as the enablers of talent, culture and results.
For you to break through the success barriers and make a difference in your own life, you must aspire to a leadership role. You must develop the ability to persuade and influence others to work with you to achieve your goals and objectives. Becoming a leader however requires that you understand the roles and
responsibilities of leadership and that you practice the qualities of a good leader until you begin to emerge as a leader in your personal and business life.
If you are looking to advance your career into a leadership capacity and / or already assume leadership responsibilities â€“ here are some useful strategies for modeling Walk The Talk behavior or Leading By Example that will inspire your followers to work hard, maintain loyalty, and help your organization grow:
1. Make a Difference. This sounds easy, but few leaders are consistent with this one.
Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of
their actions. They know everyone is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall. One of the most important qualities of a good leader is for you to lead by example, to be a role model, to be the kind of person that everyone else looks up to and wants to be like. One of the characteristics of leaders is that they carry themselves at all times, even when no one is watching, as if everyone was watching.
2. Lead with honesty. Promote an office environment of truthfulness. Anything less than honest communication should not be tolerated.
Emphasize, for example, that accurate representation (of projects, work style, etc.) affects everyone. Just think of the disgraced companies recently in the news that learned the hard way. Try to incorporate the importance of telling the truth in your company slogan. Inaccurate representation affects everyone. Show that honesty really IS the best policy.
3. Create a strong and fluid circle of advisors. The most successful leaders surround themselves with capable, trustworthy stewards who can recommend solid strategies and proven processes that lead to workable solutions. Don‘t be afraid to listen, especially when it‘s the kind of news you don‘t like or weren‘t expecting to hear. When your employees see that you listen, they will listen, too. Also, choose a diverse group representing different perspectives. That encourages your employees to act accordingly.
4. Always take responsibility. The best way for a leader to lose credibility is to play the blame game. If you blow it, admit it. If you forgot, admit that, too. In other words, step up to the managerial plate every time. Blame costs you your credibility, keeps team members on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real growth. This encourages everyone to accept responsibility and accountability. As the saying goes, it‘s lonely at the top. Blame roles
uphill. Great leaders know when to accept that mistakes have been made and take it upon themselves to fix them. It doesn‘t matter if one of your team members messed up or you did. If you are the leader, you need to take responsibility.
5. Don’t be afraid to praise. Being the boss doesn‘t mean that you should withhold positive feedback. Everyone needs a pat on the back now and then, not just your star performers. The more you give out gold stars, the more you‘ll notice motivated employees who continue do good work and recognize each other‘s value.
6. Create an inspirational culture. If you want people to be inspired, motivated, and charged up, adopt an inspirational attitude. Infuse your language (including written communication) with passion and purpose. Let people know that you‘re excited about what the company is doing, whether it‘s a new product launch, sponsorship of a major trade show, or recognition in a magazine.
7. Articulate the mission. Once you give people the language of success, they can communicate the company‘s mission. Help them understand their roles
in the company‘s success. Be direct so that they are confident you have a clear vision for the company‘s goals and objectives.
8. Be inclusive. Show your team how to resolve issues in a collaborative manner. Model active listening and provide constructive feedback. Find ways to help people feel closely connected to the actions and processes being used to accomplish company goals, so they'll collaborate with each other.
9. Measure & Reward Performance. Great leaders always have a strong ―pulse‖ on business performance and those people who are the performance champions. Not only do they review the numbers and measure performance ROI, they are active in acknowledging hard work and efforts (no matter the result).
Successful leaders never take consistent performers for granted and
are mindful of rewarding them. If the organization is doing well, initiate a motivating bonus plan; this will give employees a stake in the company‘s continued success. Sharing the rewards also reinforces your appreciation for people‘s hard work, commitment, and company loyalty. It induces employees to rely on each other to make things happen.
10.Roll up your sleeves. Show that when a job needs to be done, everyone at every level needs to chip in and participate. Do your part, and make sure that what needs to get done, gets done. Like Alexander the Great leading his men into battle, youâ€˜ll inspire greatness in your company.
11.Demonstrate integrity. Inspiring your employees is important, but they must believe in you as well. Theyâ€˜ll look up to you if you fulfill your commitments, even if itâ€˜s something as basic as showing up for a scheduled meeting.
12.Be courageous. Walk through fire (a crisis) first. Take calculated risks that demonstrate commitment to a larger purpose. Every crisis changes the environment and impacts the business. It also changes the rules of the game. The key role of the leader is to quickly understand the new rules and adapt to perform in the new environment. You will find different types of leaders during boom times but during tough times, leaders require different traits. What is important for a leader to succeed under all conditions is to learn those different traits including the courage to manage crisis.
13.Acknowledge failure. It makes it OK for your team to do the same and defines failure as part of the process of becoming extraordinary.
14.Be persistent. Try, try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don‘t define your company or team.
15.Create solutions. Don‘t dwell on problems; instead be the first to offer solutions and then ask your team for more.
16.Listen. Ask questions. Seek to understand. You‘ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue. Listen to the team. As leaders, sometimes we are so consumed with providing directive, giving orders, and, well, talking that we forget to stop and listen. If the recruitment and training engine is functioning well, you should have a whole team of experts to turn to for advice. One sign of good leadership is knowing that you don‘t know everything. Listen and get feedback from your team regularly.
17.Delegate liberally. Encourage an atmosphere in which people can focus on their core strengths. Everyone can become a leader. Good guidance and training are key ingredients for a good leader. A leader must have conviction
about the vision and ensure the team are free to follow and run with the vision.
18.Take care of yourself. Exercise, donâ€˜t overwork, take a break. A balanced team, mentally and physically, is a successful team. Model it, encourage it, support it! Wellness and fitness are essential for good leadership. The more you take care of yourself, the more energy you will have and the better work you will do. The only way to build a fitness oriented culture is to lead by example. Get in shape and lead from the front.
19.Get your hands dirty. Do the work and know your trade. You donâ€˜t have to be the most advanced technician on the team, but you must have an in-depth understanding of your industry and your business. Leaders have many responsibilities, but it is important to work alongside your team. This is a great way to build trust and continue to develop your own knowledge and skills.
20.Watch what you say. Actions do speak louder than words, but words can have a direct impact on morale. For better or for worse. Be mindful of what
you say, to whom, and who is listening. Always show support for all team members. If someone needs extra guidance, provide it behind closed doors.
21.Respect the chain of command. One of the fastest ways to cause structural deterioration, foster confusion, and damage morale is to go around your direct reports. All team members need to respect the leadership at every level. If the senior leaders donâ€˜t respect the chain of command, why would anyone else?
22.Let the team do their thing. Stop micromanaging. Communicate the mission, vision, values, and goals. Then step back and let the team innovate. Setting this example for the team will encourage your other managers to do the same.
23.Be a perpetual Learner. Leading by example is learned behavior that becomes unconscious and automatic over time. For example, leaders can make several important decisions about an issue in the time it takes others to understand the question.
Many people wonder how leaders know how to
make the best decisions, often under immense pressure. The process of making these decisions comes from an accumulation of experiences and
encounters with a multitude of difference circumstances, personality types and unforeseen failures. More so, the decision making process is an acute understanding of being familiar with the cause and effect of behavioral and circumstantial patterns; knowing the intelligence and interconnection points of the variables involved in these patterns allows a leader to confidently make decisions and project the probability of their desired outcomes. The most successful leaders are instinctual decision makers. Having done it so many times throughout their careers, they become immune to the pressure associated with decision making and extremely intuitive about the process of making the most strategic and best decisions. This is why most senior executives will tell you they depend strongly upon their â€•gut-feelâ€– when making difficult decisions at a momentâ€˜s notice. Beyond decision making, successful leadership across all areas becomes learned and instinctual over a period of time. Successful leaders have learned the mastery of anticipating business patterns, finding opportunities in pressure situations, serving the people they lead and overcoming hardships.
24.Make Others Feel Safe to Speak-Up. Many times leaders intimidate their colleagues with their title and power when they walk into a room. Successful leaders who walk the talk deflect attention away from themselves
and encourage others to voice their opinions. They are experts at making others feel safe to speak-up and confidently share their perspectives and points of view. They use their executive presence to create an approachable environment.
25.Make Decisions. Successful leaders who lead by example are expert decision makers.
They either facilitate the dialogue to empower their
colleagues to reach a strategic conclusion or they do it themselves. They focus on ―making things happen‖ at all times – decision making activities that sustain progress.
Successful leaders have mastered the art of
politicking and thus don‘t waste their time on issues that disrupt momentum. They know how to make 30 decisions in 30 minutes.
26.Communicate Expectations. Successful leaders are great communicators, and this is especially true when it comes to ―performance expectations.‖ In doing so, they remind their colleagues of the organization‘s core values and mission statement – ensuring that their vision is properly translated and actionable objectives are properly executed. I had a boss that managed the team by reminding us of the expectations that she had of the group.
made it easy for the team to stay focused and on track. The protocol she
implemented – by clearly communicating expectations – increased performance and helped to identify those on the team that could not keep up with the standards she expected from us.
27.Challenge People to Think. The most successful leaders understand their colleagues‘ mindsets, capabilities and areas for improvement. They use this knowledge/insight to challenge their teams to think and stretch them to reach for more. These types of leaders excel in keeping their people on their toes, never allowing them to get comfortable and enabling them with the tools to grow. If you are not thinking, you‘re not learning new things. If you‘re not learning, you‘re not growing – and over time becoming irrelevant in your work.
28.Be Accountable to Others. Successful leader who lead by example allow their colleagues to manage them. This doesn‘t mean they are allowing others to control them – but rather becoming accountable to assure they are being proactive to their colleagues needs. Beyond just mentoring and sponsoring selected employees, being accountable to others is a sign that your leader is focused more on your success than just their own.
29.Provide Continuous Feedback. Followers want their leaders to know that they are paying attention to them and they appreciate any insights along the way.
Successful leaders always provide feedback and they welcome
reciprocal feedback by creating trustworthy relationships with their colleagues.. They understand the power of perspective and have learned the importance of feedback early on in their career as it has served them to enable workplace advancement.
30.Properly Allocate and Deploy Talent. Successful leaders know their talent pool and how to use it. They are experts at activating the capabilities of their colleagues and knowing when to deploy their unique skill sets given the circumstances at hand. An important trait for any leader is to groom new leaders. ―You are the force‖ is a motto that sums up good philosophy towards employees. Each employee is empowered to think, work and perform like an entrepreneur.
31. Ask Questions, Seek Counsel. Successful leaders ask questions and seek counsel all the time. From the outside, they appear to know-it-all – yet on the inside, they have a deep thirst for knowledge and constantly are on the
look-out to learn new things because of their commitment to making themselves better through the wisdom of others.
32. Problem Solve; Avoid Procrastination. Successful leaders tackle issues head-on and know how to discover the heart of the matter at hand.
don‘t procrastinate and thus become incredibly proficient at problem solving; they learn from and don‘t avoid uncomfortable circumstances (they welcome them). Getting ahead in life is about doing the things that most people don‘t like doing.
33.Positive Energy & Attitude. Successful leaders create a positive and inspiring workplace culture. They know how to set the tone and bring an attitude that motivates their colleagues to take action.
As such, they are
likeable, respected and strong willed. They don‘t allow failures to disrupt momentum. A leader should instill confidence in the team, lead by example, and help people realize their potential. I seek a lot of inspiration in the words of Dhirubhai Ambani that said, ―If you can dream it, you can achieve it.‖
34.Be a Great Teacher. Many followers in the workplace will tell you that their leaders have stopped being teachers.
Successful leaders never stop
teaching because they are so self-motivated to learn themselves. They use teaching to keep their colleagues well-informed and knowledgeable through statistics, trends, and other newsworthy items. Successful leaders lead by example, they take the time to mentor their colleagues and make the investment to sponsor those who have proven they are able and eager to advance.
35. Invest in Relationships. Successful leaders don‘t focus on protecting their domain – instead they expand it by investing in mutually beneficial relationships. Successful leaders associate themselves with ―lifters and other leaders‖ – the types of people that can broaden their sphere of influence. Not only for their own advancement, but that of others. Leaders share the harvest of their success to help build momentum for those around them.
36. Genuinely Enjoy Responsibilities. Successful leaders love being leaders – not for the sake of power but for the meaningful and purposeful impact they can create. When you have reached a senior level of leadership – it‘s about your ability to serve others and this can‘t be accomplished unless you genuinely enjoy what you do.
Simply submitting to the guiding principles of â€“ Do As I Do, Walking The Talk and Leading By Example, will see you Leading, Inspiring and Transforming not just your followers but the organization that you lead; be it a two-man organization or the most populous Nation.
By Lere Baale â€“ Director - Business School Netherlands, & Howes Consulting Group.