Does is not just irritate you to your core when you encounter someone (especially when they hold an official leadership position), who tells you not to do one thing and then they up and do exactly that which they told you not to do? No one likes a person who says one thing and does another. No one likes a hypocrite and guess what, no one wants to follow one either.
I am the parent of two young boys and I have come to understand how important it is to set a good example for them. I have had those moments when I encountered the ‘echoing’ of my words in the room as they rolled off the tongue of my little ones and I would imagine that those of you who are parents have faced the same challenge.
Whenever this happens, the reaction which most often occurs is to chastise them for repeating what you said, and you often think to yourself: ‘I have to be careful what I say around this child – he/she will embarrass me!’
It is true that we need to be careful with what we say around our children but more importantly, we need to be extra careful with what we do around them also, as they will learn much more from that than from our politically correct speech whilst in their presence.
Across almost all animal groups, offspring seem to come into this world as blank canvasses but yet they appear to have an instinctual capacity for mimicking that which they see around them. This is especially apparent among human beings. This is nature’s way of helping them to gather vital information about how they should function and survive from what they observe without necessarily having to be taught. Take our ability to speak and our comprehension of language as an example. When a child is born, he or she has no ability to communicate to us in the way that we as adults may communicate to each other. However, over time this child begins to speak and word by word, he or she starts forming sentences and before you know it, there will be many occasions when you will have to be telling them to stop talking. This achievement is amazing in and of itself but when we go further to consider the fact that a child born into a Spanish home learns to speak Spanish and a child born into a German home learns to speak German, we understand the power of a child’s ability to imitate that which he or she sees and hears.
The preceding illustrates the power of setting a good example and this is a critical component in leadership. Most certainly, if we are leaders, there will be others following in our footsteps so, in most cases, if we go astray they will also. The days are pretty much gone where we, as leaders, could tell others to ‘do as I say and not as I do’. It is the responsibility of each of us to recognize that others are looking at us as examples to follow. They are seeking to learn how to function, behave and survive. So when they see us acting irresponsibly or see us behaving unethically, chances are that we are giving them a ‘green light’ to copy such behaviours. This fact alone should challenge each and every one who holds an official leadership title within the business and/or political environments to do their utmost best to set a good example for those under their charge.
In widening our scope to the larger society, we recognize that as each of us embrace the fact that we are personal leaders in some way or the other, we all need to set good examples for the youth around us as they are definitely looking on. They are observing how we handle conflict, disappointment, failure and, ultimately, how we treat each other. Do we lie, cheat and steal? Are we unnecessarily aggressive towards each other, resorting to threats against and even fights with one another where there are mere differences of opinions? Do we, as leaders, call each other names and level insults at each other when having an argument? Do we abuse others when we seemingly have an advantage over them?
My friends, the example is being set whether we realize and like it or not and those looking on at us (our youth) will eventually follow it. This is one of the many examples of where leadership goes beyond titles as frankly, it applies to all adults who walk amongst our nation’s youth. On the bus, in the supermarket, on the radio, in the neighbourhood, within the home – we all have to strive to be better individuals so that better examples can be established for those who are learning how to function from us. It is not only what we say but, more importantly, what we do that will make the most lasting impression in the lives of those who follow us.