I think it has been said in many articles by many authors; in many ways that the first rule of leadership is to lead by example. The leader is the model, the one who sets the pace. Having spent many years leading Marines I can only agree with the comment made so well by Kouzes and Posner, “…you either lead by example or you don’t lead at all.”
As I wrote in a previous article, anyone can lead. You have to have the willingness to learn and the desire to do so. I also noted there are traits and principles common among successful leaders. Leading by example is definitely the most important. Before you get there you must know yourself and seek self-improvement.
Do you know how you react when you are in a tense situation? How do you react when the project you are responsible for just hit an unexpected “snag?” How well do you work with folks who don’t have the same work ethic as you or no work ethic at all? What are your biases? Do you have the technical skill to be able to lead the team?
Leadership is contagious. A person in a leadership position that lacks knowledge of self leads the way by bluffing. Bluffing is very much like having a sickness that erodes away at the body.
Before you can be an example to your team or organization, rule one—know yourself! Make an honest evaluation of yourself. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Solicit honest opinions from peers, superiors, subordinates. Study other leaders for both their successes and failures. Trust me there is a lot one can learn from failure! Look to utilizing self-assessment tools such as the enneagram or some other self-assessment tool to gain an understanding of how you react in any given situation and to other people. Know who you are before you attempt to lead. If you cannot Model the way you will have little success in leading the way.
Next time let us talk about knowing your workmates, peers, superiors and subordinates.
Fortitude Consulting is in the business of Executive Leadership and Strategy; working with leaders to leverage talent, dramatically improve performance and rapidly exceed goals.