A funny thing… when speaking with leaders and managers in most companies, you’ll hear the same thing: “We should lead by example.”
Well, yes, but…
You already lead by example. All leaders lead by example, every single waking day. The question is what kind of example, good or bad? Setting some example is merely a function of coming to work.
We create examples in ways not always obvious. For example: in our expectations of others, when we allow abhorrent behavior – behavior not otherwise condoned or supported – to go unchecked by a select few, rest assured that others will see and emulate. And don’t ask me why (a Psychologist, I’m not), but the worse the behavior, the more widespread the perceived acceptance.
And don’t kid yourself; merely because you think everyone knows something is inherently wrong, doesn’t mean they won’t still do it anyway when they see it’s ok for others to do it (and yes, acquiescence, like silence, is the same as acceptance). Here’s a real world example…
I was at the Master’s golf championship in Augusta, Georgia a few years back. Now many of you know this, but the people who run Augusta National (the Club) are fanatic about their rules. Positively loony about 100% enforcement, all the time, no matter what.
So, we were in line to get in, early one morning, for a practice round. One of the rules is “no hard-seated chairs.” You can carry in a wide variety of seats, camping chairs, lawn chairs, etc., provided they have soft seats. The reason, of course, is that they don’t want you later standing on those seats, blocking the pristine Augusta views from others.
Well, you knew it would happen… just in front of us was a group of 3 guys. They saw the signs, discussed it quietly among themselves, then decided they’d give it a shot – that they wouldn’t get caught.
Wrong – cold-busted.
The gate marshal came up to the guy carrying the chair, and stated flatly, “that can’t come inside the grounds.” To which this 40-something adult male responded, “Well, why can HE do it, then???” …all the while pointing to another gentleman’s chair about 15 feet in front.
That’s right – his complete rationale for doing what he knew to be wrong was, “someone else is doing it, and you haven’t said anything to him.” Don’t kid yourself; this is not near as much an anomaly as we would like to believe.
The behavior we allow, we promote. No different than if we were modeling the behavior ourselves. Think about that when you feel like it’s just too much trouble to correct some seemingly isolated (but negative) behavior in your staff. If a non-negotiable – something that simply cannot occur – you must address it, and get a commitment to stop the errant actions.
If not, get prepared – it’ll spread like wildfire, and you are largely, personally responsible.