Modeling the Way
What does it take to be a leader? Well, the first step is acknowledging that to someone, at sometime, you are a leader! We all need to realize that others may at one point or another look to us for guidance, advice or support. Once we recognize this simple, yet important, point, we understand that we need to always present ourselves in a way that represents ourselves and our intentions in the best light. This month’s blog is about the importance of modeling the way so that others who see us will be proud of our actions and be desirous of behaving in the same way that we do.
Kouzes and Posner in their seminal work, “The Leadership Challenge,” point to the importance of a leader’s behavior reflecting their intentions and also reflecting the behaviors that they want their people to emulate. This tenet of leadership can be understood along the lines of, “would you want your mother to see you doing that?”, or, “can you look in the mirror and be happy with who you are,” etc. The point being that if we are happy and proud of our actions then we should continue them; if we aren’t then perhaps we should stop.
Leaders in all walks of life need to be aware of the ways that they present themselves and the ways they represent their values and the values of their organization to their team as well as to the public in general. As discussed in the clip above, some organizations such as Southwest Airlines are known for their employee centric workplace. They have a focus on employee satisfaction, and one of the ways they model this is by having their employees at all levels work in different positions, no matter what their pay grade.
Modeling the way can be as simple as a manager taking time out of his or her day to stop and talk with employees, getting to know a bit about them and what they enjoy and don’t enjoy about their job. I had a student some years ago who worked in a large insurance company. One day, she told me, she was sitting by herself in the cafeteria having lunch when someone who she recognized as a senior vice president came to her table and asked if he could join her. He spent about a half hour eating and talking with her about the organization, his job, her job, and what he hopes his employees feel each day at work. The impact of this 30 minutes of the vice president’s time was huge for my student, she was made to feel valuable to the organization and she felt that her insights and observations were valued; she herself felt empowered after the interaction as she was a part of an organization where executives wanted to get to know their employees and spend time with them.
We model the way for our people so that the dedication, excitement and passion that we have for our organization becomes contagious. In an interview I conducted with Bob Melvin, manager of the Oakland A’s, he said that “when you have pride in leadership and you believe in your leader, you come to work with a smile on your face, and pride in playing for the organization.” By coming to work with a smile we are modeling the way and encouraging those around us to do the same.
Your homework for this month, pay attention to your actions, attitude and demeanor at work. No matter what your position, is the way you behave each day the way you think everyone should behave? Remember, a bad apple does spoil the bunch…be a good apple and model positive behaviors.
Dr. Howard Fero, is an Associate Professor of Business andLeadership and the Director of Graduate Leadership programs at Albertus Magnus College. When not teaching classes and overseeing the Leadership programs at Albertus Dr. Fero uses his expertise to help individuals and organizations achieve optimal performance and effectiveness as The Leadership Doc. Dr. Fero will be blogging about different leadership topics throughout the year and speaks about these topics in his classes in the Master of and Arts in Leadership Master of Science in Management and Organizational Leadership Programs. He welcomes your comments and looks forward to communicating with you in our exciting new blog.