We always define leadership with leading and rarely with modeling. Ironically, the first word that came out of our mouth was the first word we heard.
The first letter we wrote started from following strokes. The first sentence we composed was from putting together clustered strokes to form letters, words, and sentences.
Before we scored our first goal, we had witnessed how Messi did his countless of times. Before we played the piano, we wondered at how Chopin or Beethoven performed their timeless pieces.
This is why modeling matters. This is why good leadership starts with good modeling. It may sound like a simple idea, but we are so consumed by the promises of complex leadership theories. Hence, we are skipping the basics.
There might be 101 ways to define, describe, and discuss ideal leadership practices. As a socio-cognitive activity like talking or writing, leading starts with modeling.
In a way, modeling is as simple as an action of mimicking or copying actions. On the other hand, it could be more than that. From the point of view of the doer, modeling is an act of presenting an idealized character or persona based on contextualized values.
Although non-exhaustive, this list of values range related to ethics, morality, political, and socio-cultural ideologies. Depending on the context of the scenario or the demand of the situation, leaders model the ways. Followers emulate the ways.
Furthermore, Kouzes & Posner (2012) point out that our behavior and actions as leaders inspire workplace engagement. Leaders inspire through loyalty, motivation, commitment, and pride. It’s a no-brainer that leaders who walk the talk get high respect from the member of the organization.
Therefore, in modeling the way, leaders must perform exemplary tasks.
First, we need to find our inner voice.
‘Who am I?’
This inner voice serves as our set of values–our guide. This influences key aspects of our lives and serves as a basis of our important decisions.
To make it personal yet highly relevant, our values must reflect our words and thoughts. These need to be aligned with the organization’s values.
In our case, we go with the acronym PITC4H: Patience, Integrity, Tolerance, Compassion, Competency, Consistency, Credibility, and Humility. In every single thing that we do, we remind ourselves that how we act should be in accordance with what we believe.
At times when we falter, we pull back, reflect, and make amends.
Affirm shared values
Once we’re certain of our own values, we have to check what others believe in. By arriving at essential agreements, a unified voice leads to a team’s shared values.
With these shared values at the core, the members of the team will have reasons to care and commit to the vision along the way.
This is the part where keen observation and amicable communication kick in. For established teams, it’s just a matter of sustaining through regular and informal chats.
However, whenever new people join our team, we usually start off giving them all the opportunity to share their experiences and expectations.
Then, we explain to them what we do and encourage them to align their expectations with what has always been expected from us.
We would have started the other way around by telling new members of our team who we are, what we do, and what they must do. In hindsight, affirming shared values is different from imposing shared values.
Set the example
From talking to walking… Values without actions are just mere thoughts dangling on thin air. After clearly defining our inner voice and affirming values with others, we need to live these shared values consistently. It may sound as simple as ‘be a good organizational citizen’, but practicing this takes a great deal of time.
After clearly defining our inner voice and affirming values with others, we need to live these shared values consistently. It may sound as simple as ‘be a good organizational citizen’, but practicing this takes a great deal of time.
We always dread deadlines. Aside from reminding our fellow colleagues about what we need to accomplish, we usually show them that we are doing it with them. In effect, we also work collaboratively to complete everything before the set deadline.
Although we risk adding pressure to them or being misunderstood as a ‘show-off’, we would rather be a ‘good organizational citizen’ and live our values of integrity and competency consistently.
Other than that, when the greatest thinkers of history–Confucius, Jesus Christ, and Prophet Muhammad–all proclaimed “follow the way” in their teachings, what they really meant was “model the way.” This age-old teaching seems to have been lost under the dust of complex thoughts.
Finally, we need to go back to the basics–the simplest thoughts that genuinely lies within us and the simplest actions that anybody can instinctively follow.
This is why modeling matters in leadership.
Kouzes, James M., and Barry Z. Posner. The Leadership Challenge Workbook. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2012. Print.