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  • Writer's pictureWiehann de Klerk

Leading By Example

The power of Model-Based Leadership - being the example.

Be the example, otherwise you will lack followers.

People love to follow those that lead by example. In other words, people follow those that are models of the ideal standard and act upon what they speak. To be such a leader, you must embrace Model-Based leadership. Model-Based Leadership occurs when your leadership style is a model - a standard or example for imitation or comparison. This leadership style is all about being the example - being who you want your followers to be - showing what you believe in and what your values reflect. When you lead by example, you are worthy of imitation. A Model-Based leader represents the ideal. They portray the standard. They are idealisers by nature. By showcasing the ideal standards through a personal presentation, the expected actions are portrayed rather than spoken about - followers feel like they are showcased the benefits of the actions rather than told what to do. In addition, followers trust the words spoken by the leader as being the leaders' values and beliefs, rather than instructions or directions because the actions of the leader are congruent with the things they say.

Model-Based Leaders are those that understand the ideal standard of excellence - what they believe to be their standard of excellence and live it out in the present. They show now, the ideal that they wish to see in the future in the lives of their followers. They live out what they expect from their followers - they are representers of expectation. Let's say that John, a Manager in an organisation expects his employees to work hard, and put in solid days of work throughout the week. He will not be a Model-Based leader if he lacks action and doesn't put in the hard yards himself. To improve his leadership, he must ensure that his words match up with his actions. The actions that we take are louder than the words that we speak; it's essential that our actions showcase the ideal, not our words. Otherwise, we run the risk of hypocrisy - discussed later in this blog.

"Leadership is demonstration, not communication."

We have all heard the saying, "Actions speak louder than words." But the question is, do you believe it? A leader must not only believe this; they must live it out. Your lifestyle must match the words you speak otherwise you may run the risk of seeming confused about your own beliefs and values. If you don't communicate your values and beliefs with demonstration, your not leading. I have been fit my whole life, and since primary school, I have focused on living a healthy lifestyle. Not only was this great for my health and wellbeing but it also opened up doors for me to start a career as a personal trainer. I didn't choose to follow that path, simply due to my lack of interest in personal training as a profession. However, there was always an opportunity to be a leader in health because my lifestyle was a model of the ideal. The ideal, in this case, is having a healthy body. When you have a healthy lifestyle, people that want to improve their health will come to you for advice. The results you have obtained is what they to wish to obtain - success leaves clues. You have led by showcasing that which they want. Your lifestyle opens up the opportunity to lead. It's not the other way around. You cannot lead others to health if you are not healthy yourself.

Matthew 7:20 - Just as you can identify a tree by looking at its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

These days, at the gym, I see a number of unfit personal trainers. The crazy thing is that some of them actually have clients! Why would someone that wants to become fit listen to somebody that is unfit? It doesn't make sense! If you want to become a bodybuilder, you listen to Arnold Swarzgneggar, not Oprah Winfrey; if you want to learn about Real Estate Investing, you listen to Robert Kiyosaki, not the checkout assistant at the supermarket with ten years of retail experience and no investment properties to their name. A person that has obtained wealth through Real Estate won't be working as a checkout assistant. I think the reason many people make bad decisions in life is that they lack the ability to choose the right leaders; instead of following Warren Buffet for investment advice, they follow their Uncle Bob who works as a butcher. In all these examples, one took actions that matched the words they spoke, and one didn't. As a leader, your lifestyle must match the words you speak so that you can be the example in your preferred field (lifestyle). When your actions are congruent with your spoken words, you are not only a Model-Based Leader; you are also portraying yourself as someone that has integrity. Integrity is the by-product of honesty, defined as being honourable in principles, intentions, and actions. That's right - actions! Your actions must be honourable. They must be true. They must be linked to your principles and intentions. The words you speak are your principles and intentions being verbalised; the actions you take are your principles and intentions being materialised. Integrity is the relationship between the two - ensure that your verbalised words match your physical expression so that you portray yourself as someone with integrity, worthy of imitation; to be followed as a model, to be a Model-Based Leader.

"What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say." Ralph Waldo Emerson

The opposite of Model-Based Leadership is hypocrisy. No one likes to be a called a hypocrite. However, "Hypocrisy is a natural state of the human mind," according to Robert Kurzban, author of Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite. Despite beliefs to the contrary, we all, no matter how hard we try, engage in hypocritical acts from time to time. It's a natural state of our mind. You can, by being subconsciously aware of the decisions you make and actions you take, reduce hypocrisy in your life and increase your idealising activity. Here are some examples of actions that are not Modelling the ideal; bad Model-Based Leadership:

  1. Telling a follower to work harder when you never work hard yourself;

  2. Giving health advice when you eat McDonald's every day;

  3. Agreeing that child labour is wrong, and then not checking labels to see where your clothes are made;

  4. Explaining to your followers that teamwork is crucial, and then trying to do everything yourself;

  5. Promising something, and then not following through;

  6. Telling your wife that you love her, and then having an affair.

"The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example." John Wooden

The reason I provided a range of different examples is that leadership is not just about leading others. It's also about leading yourself. In fact, the first step of any leadership journey is self-leadership. You must first lead yourself in order to lead others. Model-Based Leadership is not easy because it requires hard work. It requires awareness of every word that you speak and every action that you take. If you are not aware of the actions you take, you will end up doing something in the future that is contrary to what you first did, potentially causing others to question your integrity. When inconsistent actions are noticed by someone else, whether it be someone you know or not, it will come back to bite you - you will lose credibility as a leader. Model-Based Leadership requires work, and it is essential for the longevity of your position as a leader. If you tell someone that giving to charity is important, you must give to charity. If you tell your wife you love her; you must love her. There is a difference between telling someone you love them and the action of loving them; one is easy to do while the other is hard to do - speaking is easier than doing. That is why actions speak louder than words - there is greater effort behind action than there is behind the spoken word. R.H Waters published an article called The Principles of Least Effort in Learning, indicating that humans tend to take the path of least resistance - doing things that are easy to do and avoiding the things that are hard to do. Model-Based Leadership is the path of most resistance which is why there are not many Model-Based Leaders out there. Be that leader that chooses the path of most resistance and ensure that your words and actions are congruent so that you can model the ideal to every person that follows you. Be the model. Be worthy of imitation.

"The words you speak are your principles and intentions being verbalised; the actions you take are your principles and intentions being materialised."

In what areas of your life can you model the ideal? What actions do you need to take to be congruent with your words?

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