Every organization reflects the personality of the leader. Thus it is critical for a leader to set a good example for the team to follow. The commander of a fighter squadron could be the best fighter pilot in the world, but if he treats people like dirt, the squadron will be rotten to the core.
The hen-pecked husband who is yelled at by his wife turns around and kicks the dog, passing the bad feelings to someone or something else. I have seen this in action in military units more times than I can count. The commander is an angry, demanding person who has little patience with his subordinates. In turn, the subordinates pass those negative feels down the chain, becoming angry and demanding themselves.
I worked for a unit where the commanding general regularly yelled and cursed at his officers. Morale was low, tension was high and everyone yelled at everyone else. When that general was replaced with a commander who expected excellence but respected his officers and treated them well, the unit’s performance and morale improved almost overnight. As Gen Eisenhower said, “You do not lead by hitting people over the head—that’s assault, not leadership”
You do not lead by hitting people over the head—that’s assault, not leadership
On the flip side, I had the privilege of working for a general who stressed open communication both vertically and horizontally in the organization. He set the example by constantly keeping his officers, his boss and his peers informed of all the goings on. His team reflected his superb leadership style by communicating effectively and performing brilliantly. The general was able to tackle large issues that had plagued the unit for a long time and get them solved.
As a leader, your team will reflect how you behave and the example you set. If you are stressed and angry, your team will show signs of tension and anger. However, if you are patient and encouraging, that example will be reflected in your subordinates in the way they deal with their charges.
The media reports following the election of George W. Bush to the presidency intimated President Clinton’s administration had been less than professional with respect to their attire. The validity of these media statements about the Clinton White House can not be validated, but the impact was none the less impressive. The Bush administration issued a policy mandating professional business wear at all times in the White House. Just the hint of a more professional atmosphere at the top led to an improved media image and seemingly increased respect for each other throughout the government. The tone of the White House and the government changed to reflect the leader’s values.
“…your team will reflect how you behave and the example you set.”
Every parent, every coach, every priest sets the example for their followers. If the leader of the local Alcoholics Anonymous had a drink at a bar every night, the members of the chapter might quickly fall off the wagon, emulating his example. Think about every hero you had as a child; you wanted to be exactly like him or her and did everything possible to make it happen.
Setting an example as a leader has more power over the course of an organization than the words a leader says. The common saying, “Actions speak louder than words”, is the basis of good leadership. Your team will reflect your example. Make sure your image is one you want to see looking back at you from the mirror of your organization.
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