Nine Ways Leaders Set the Wrong Example

In today’s world, leaders are followed not because of what they say, but because of what they do. Early in my career I was taught that leaders should always “walk their talk.” We all know what that means, but walking is only one behavior. Those who follow leaders today are looking for more. They are looking at what leaders do, at their behaviors. Leaders can set the right example, or the wrong example.

Let’s focus on nine wrong examples today.

  1. Leaders set the wrong example when they focus on themselves instead of others. Most businesses serve customers. When the leader doesn’t behave in a way that serves others it sends the message that service isn’t important. When a leader doesn’t serve, how can the organization serve?
  2. Leaders set the wrong example when they don’t extend trust to others. Today, more than ever before people are looking for leaders they can trust. I once worked for a general manager who told his staff he didn’t trust anyone and to not take it personally. Trust is personal to people and they want to work for leaders they can trust. You can’t expect others in your organization to trust if their leader is not willing to trust them first.
  3. Leaders set the wrong example when they don’t live their values. In today’s value-driven workforce, employees want to see the company values taken off the wall and put into action. When values are only decorations on a wall, organizations will lose their best people to companies who take values seriously.
  4. Leaders set the wrong example when they don’t listen to understand. It took me years to understand that listening is the best way for leaders to really show they care about people. When leaders don’t listen, their message is they don’t care about others.
  5. Leaders set the wrong example when they don’t think about their thinking. Leaders can’t get better for their people if they don’t spend time thinking about who they are, what they want to be, how to get there and by being honest about the results they’re getting. I spend more time reflecting today than any time in my career.
  6. Leaders set the wrong example when they don’t develop their people by helping them grow and perform to their fullest potential. People today look for their companies to invest in them, add value to their lives and help them reach their goals.
  7. Leaders set the wrong example when they don’t show courage; courage to do things differently, set the pace in the right way and care about how they get results, not just the results themselves. It takes courage to set a mission and purpose for a company and live the values you say you’ll live by. It takes courage to address challenges both internal and external to your business. It takes courage to weed out those we are not performing to their fullest potential. It takes courage to share your non-performing people with your competition.
  8. Leaders set the wrong example when they don’t increase their influence. Leadership is all about influence and when you don’t use your influence in the right way, to get results in accordance with your values, to extend trust or listen to understand, it sets the tone on how the company will behave. Your influence, through the correct behaviors, is one of the best things you can do for your organization.
  9. Leaders set the wrong example when they don’t live their own transformation. I am a believer in servant leadership. If I don’t behave in way that reflects who I want to be as a leader, those around me know it. I can talk the talk and walk the talk, but in order to be a great leader in today’s workplace, I must behave the talk.

Behaviors are about showing who you are on the inside, letting others see your heart. I would encourage leaders to focus on the following nine behaviors to be an effective leader in today’s business world.

  1. Serve first
  2. Build trust
  3. Live your values
  4. Listen to understand
  5. Think about your thinking
  6. Add value to others
  7. Be courageous
  8. Increase your influence
  9. Live your transformation

If leaders today would focus on behaviors, it would change who we are, those who follow us, impact our communities and the world around us. Behave your talk and watch the world around you change for good.

Art Barter is CEO and cultural architect of Datron World Communications Inc., an organization he transformed from a $10 million company to a $200 million company in just six years by putting into practice the behaviors of servant leadership.

He also is CEO and founder of the Servant Leadership Institute (SLI), an organization that helps people and organizations put servant leadership into practice, through hands-on training, coaching, events, publications and other programs. His latest book is The Servant Leadership Journal: An 18 Week Journey To Transform You and Your Organization.


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