Lead By Example
July 29, 2013
Lead by example, especially in matters of ethics.
When I was a staff officer in the headquarters of the Canadian Land Force Doctrine and Training System, our commander had assembled the entire staff to talk about leadership. He asked the assembly what the most important principle of leadership is. In unison, and without hesitation, everyone answered, Lead by example. This wasnt the result of indoctrination, but of hard won experience, as we were all experienced officers and NCOs.
Thoughout my career, I always tried to apply this most basic of leadership principles, although I sometimes faltered. When I did, it was usually a matter of ethics. I dont mean to say I was willfully acting unethically, but rather that many errors of commission and omission can be interpreted by followers and peers as ethical misconduct.
These days, we have business and political leaders, athletes, clergy, educators and others in positions of influence and authority acting unethically. Many do not appear to understand that this directly undermines their credibility and ability to lead. For instance, Anthony Weiner is running for mayor of New York City, but doesnt see that his sexual pecadilloes can undermine his credibility, and therefore his ability to lead one of the most important cities on earth! Here in Montreal, the Charbonneau Commission is investigating allegations of bribery and bid-rigging in municipal construction projects. The standard excuse by those called to testify? Everyone was doing it. It seemed to be the way things were done.
Leaders set the ethical tone of the organizations they lead, and they must always be aware of this fact.
Food for Thought
Ill-considered and immoral actions in organizations undermine the morale and ethics of their members and the society they are meant to serve.
Richard Martin is a consultant, speaker, and executive coach. He brings his military and business leadership and management experience to bear for executives and organizations seeking to exploit change, maximize opportunity, and minimize risk.
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