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Leading By Example: Why It’s Essential to Practise What You Preach



Settling back in? Well, it may be time to call yourself out.


Let’s explain.


In the devastating wake of Covid-19, there’s been a lot of revisiting company values, protocols and performance. And while redefining your vision and values is one thing, making good on that internal messaging is something else entirely. One of the fundamentals of successful leadership is, after all, to practise what we preach. Although one of the most powerful leaders on the planet may struggle with this (and, let’s face it, with so many other concepts), it’s something we all do, right?


Or do we? Because while we’re unlikely to be at POTUS-levels of hypocrisy (and the Bible-brandishing photo op did set that bar quite high), chances are a quick reality check will reveal a bit of room for improvement. So we thought now was a good time to review those key elements of leadership which can fall too easily into the “preach” more than the “practise” department:


1. Clarity.


It’s a given that a company’s vision is crystal clear to those in its higher levels of management. The question leaders need to consider is whether that clarity carries all the way down to their organisation’s most junior employees. Is that visibility still present, or is there a level at which the message is getting a little muddied? Remember: every single employee should understand the role they play in driving a business forward. By way of example, ponder the possibly apocryphal story of President John F. Kennedy’s encounter with a janitor during a tour of NASA headquarters in 1961. Legend has it that when he asked a janitor mopping the floor what he did at NASA, the janitor replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” So over to you: filtered through a similarly broad lens, what should a lower-level employee’s response to this question be?


2. Communication.


It’s fair to say that everyone had to clean up their communication skills during the Covid crisis. Hold on to those habits! Don’t drop that level of discipline as your routine returns to (near) normal. Take a critical look back over your recent communications – both minor and more significant. Did anyone come back to you for clarification on any points? If so, consider this: was there any way you could have communicated the information better? Chances are, the answer’s yes. Keep this in mind for next time.


3. Credit.


As in: give credit where credit’s due. Now we know that good leaders are of course all over performance reviews and other formal ways of recognising achievements. What we’re saying is this: as the usual office chaos begins to overtake us once again, don’t forget how empowering it is for employees to hear a simple acknowledgement of their efforts, too. Never underestimate the importance of casual comments like “Nice work” or “Good job”. Put it this way: how many people complain about receiving too much recognition of their efforts?



We’re all familiar with these fundamentals of successful leadership. We’re also only human. So while we’re unlikely to blunder into Trump-levels of bungling (bleach injections, anyone?), it’s understandable that we can occasionally falter on the follow-through. So take a moment to reflect on these gentle reminders. While these simple issues can be easy to overlook, they’re also easy to address. Real leaders will be ready to do just that.