A leader leads by example,
whether he intends to or not.
There’s so much leadership literature in the libraries today; if you take a scan at the library; you’ll realize there are so many books on the topic of leadership.
You might even think to yourself: must I read so many books to understand what it truly means to be a leader?
Thankfully, the answer is NO.
Do you think the great leaders of the past had all these literature to refer to when they were making decisions?
No they didn’t.
Did they have the resource, frameworks and methods available to most of us today?
No they didn’t.
But they were great.
They shaped history. They changed the destinies of men.
Becoming a great leader does not lie in understanding literature about leadership, or frameworks, methods and so on.
Becoming a great leader is often about first conquering yourself. It’s about leading by example.
As you learn to conquer yourself, you learn to overcome your circumstances and you guide the way for other men to do the same.
8.1 How Does Leadership by Example Work?
Leadership by Example is a simple process: LEARN, DO and TEACH.
The first step to leading anyone in any area is to LEARN it yourself.
For example, if you want to teach your followers about effective budgeting skills; then you must first LEARN effective budgeting.
What are the books you can learn from? What are the experts in your field already that you can draw from? Is there anyone who can help you achieve your goal of becoming an effective budgeter faster?
Go seek out resources and material that will aid you; read up all about it so that you can get a rough idea about how it is to be done.
Next, DO it.
The DOING process helps you to understand the obstacles and challenges when it comes to budgeting.
If you had failed to effectively do it, what caused it? If you were successful, what did you do?
And this is a very important step in the process of leadership by example. Most people just want to LEARN and TEACH. They read up their books and start spewing their knowledge like they’re already an expert.
I don’t know if you’ve met such a person before; I have.
To have someone without the practical knowledge to preach to me can be quite an annoying experience!
It is the same if you’re a leader. If you haven’t already achieved it yourself, don’t go and preach about it to your followers.
You will definitely lose respect.
For example, once I preached to my team about being on time for meetings. I go on a little more about it than usual and talked about the value of being on time. I told the people who arrived late that in future, they would be subject to a $2 fine for every 5 minutes they were late.
However guess what?
Once, I was late for my own meeting.
By being late for my own meeting, I disqualified myself to preach about being on time. After that incident, I didn’t preach about being on time anymore for a few months.
However, during this period, I made sure that I wasn’t late for any meetings.
I wanted to qualify myself to preach about being on time so that I could set an excellent standard for the team.
There are a lot of managers, leaders out there today who like to do otherwise. It’s really convenient to demand of your followers a standard that you haven’t even achieved yourself; for one thing, you don’t even have to get out of your comfort zone.
You can just remain where you are and expect the team to change for the better.
But it doesn’t work.
In the process of doing that, you lose everything that qualifies you to be a leader to your team.
That’s what has happened to a lot of managers in organizations with its unhappy employees: leaders who don’t lead by example.
And of course, the last step is TEACH.
TEACHING is the simple part; for once you have learnt the ropes, you can easily impart the same skills or ability to your followers.
You can tell them about the obstacles, challenges that they will face, because you have faced it yourself. And most of all, you can TEACH them about how to overcome it!
Of course, do remember to take them step-by-step along the way. Teaching requires patience because while there are fast learners, there are also slow learners. Be patient with your team and give them time to learn.
They won’t get it the first time, and neither did you.
Whatever it is, once your team observes a particular characteristic in your life; be it coming on time for meetings; good budgeting of finances; dressing impeccably to work, they will see it as a standard to rise up to.
And eventually, coupled with your teaching, they will rise up to the standard you have set.
Remember the process of leadership by example: LEARN, DO and TEACH.
8.2 A Great Illustration of Leadership by Example
One great illustration I can think of as I am writing this chapter is the story of Jesus and his disciples in the Bible.
Jesus was an amazing example of perfect leadership by example. When he first recruited his 12 disciples, he went around with them 24/7 and he showed them how miracles were supposed to be performed.
He went around healing the sick, raising the dead and faced off with the religious leaders of that time. In one incident, illustrated in the book of Luke:
Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.
When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”
They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.
– Luke 8:41-42,51-55, New International Version (emphasis mine)
And after Jesus’ resurrection, his disciples went around doing the same works that Jesus did. They went around the region preaching, healing and performing other miracles like Jesus did.
This incident is recorded in the book Acts:
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”
Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.
Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive.
– Acts 9:36-41, New International Version(emphasis mine)
The disciple Peter learnt from Jesus and did exactly what He did!
This is a great illustration. Even when Jesus was not by the disciples’ side anymore, the disciples modelled Him exactly as how He had done it.
As a leader, this is what you want to strive for; by becoming such a strong influence in your follower’s lives; they model their lives after yours and become as successful as you are; and if not, better!
This is a mark of a true leader, not that he has followers; but that he raised leaders.
Move on to Chapter 9: True Leadership
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