In every walk of life, one must lead by example when put in charge. If the leader does not uphold the standards that are set, everyone will look to cut corners. This is a recipe for failure individually but also for one’s team. It is really a rather simple concept. There is one standard that everyone must meet and they are all looking to the leader to see if meeting the standard is actually important. Once a leader stops modeling correct behavior, the organization will begin to fail. For leaders actions are far more important than words because they are always on display.
For decades, possibly centuries, we have heard that you need to “Practice what you preach.” Or one must “Walk the walk and not just talk the talk.” There are probably hundreds of these statements and they all make sense, yet there are many leaders who are not following this sage advice. I don’t know if they believe that they are too smart for people to figure out who they really are and what they are really like but in my experience, they are rarely fooling anyone.
I have worked with a company who brought in a new President for North America and the new president, as is usually the case, replaced most of the senior executives with those with whom she was more familiar and therefore more comfortable. One of the senior vice presidents, who she hired gave the entire division a speech telling us how the company had been barely keeping its head above water and the new executives were going to instill values in the company. It turned out that the values they tried to instill, allegedly included violating some government policies in an attempt to increase profits. The result, as expected, was that many of the good people decided to leave the company. Good people it seems, always have other options. The company profits did not improve and the stock price lagged its competitors by about 20% per year for the eight years of the president’s tenure. Though it took far too long, she was eventually replaced. Only time will tell if the new president has learned this lesson.