About three years ago, I blogged about a very disturbing situation involving a Texas (so-called) veterinarian Kristen Lindsey and her now infamous cat kill. As difficult as it was to write it, I knew it was important to do so, because I wanted to underscore a very important leadership message. Which is: you are a role model. Whether you know it, whether you want it, people are watching you, and you have a standard of behaviour to uphold. It’s critically important as a leader to walk the talk. If you want your employees to act and behave in a certain way, then you need to model that behaviour. Well this fundamental leadership tenet came up in several discussions with client groups just in the past couple of weeks, so I felt it was worth addressing again today.
You are a role model (whether or not you want to be!)
It’s important as a leader to recognize that you are a role model, and therefore you need to be thoughtful about how you behave and act. Here are some examples of scenarios described to me recently, where people just didn’t get how important this is:
- The manager who constantly rails at his employees for not being focused as work, but they see him watching YouTube videos in his office every chance he gets.
- The crew supervisor who insists that his team wear hard hats from the moment they leave the site trailer, but is repeatedly observed wandering around the worksite without his hard hat on.
- The call centre team leader, who is a stickler for staff punctuality, comes into work late at least twice a week, and routinely takes 90 minute lunch breaks.
- The site foreman who continually reminds his workers to use professional language at client locations, but is regularly heard dropping the f-bomb when things don’t go exactly as expected.
- The accounting supervisor who insists that staff work longer hours for key deadlines, but leaves the office at exactly 4:30 PM on the days when her staff are expected to work much later into the evening (and sometimes even into the night).
Even if you have a good reason not to … walk the talk anyway
In some of these cases listed above, it is entirely possible that the manager could have had a good reason for not walking the talk. But my point is that it really doesn’t matter! The reality is that when you are in a position of leadership, you ARE a role model, so you have to be willing to demonstrate the behaviour and actions that you desire from your staff. Because you carry the title of manager, or supervisor, or team leader (or whatever other leadership title you happen to have), it is critical that you never forget that your behaviours and actions set the standard for how others will behave and act. If you don’t, you simply cannot expect your people to do what you are not willing to do yourself.
I would love to hear your perspective on this. Either your individual experiences or what you’ve observed in your workplace? Is it really that critical for leaders to walk the talk? Please share by commenting below.