Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing. – Albert Schweitzer
There’s the married manager who tells his employees that you should be faithful to your spouse, and is then seen with several unknown ladies, in various states of undress, coming out of his hotel room at 2:00 am while at a recent business convention. Or the supervisor who complains about unnecessary spending in the department but buys expensive luxury office furniture for her office. Or the director who demands everyone work late to get a critical business proposal completed on time, as they are heading out the door with their golf clubs. Do you know any of these people?
It’s no wonder these days that people are tired of the “do as I say, not as I do” leader. Doug Dickerson relates a story told of General George C. Marshall who took command of the Infantry School at Fort Benning, GA. He found the post in a run-down condition. Rather than issue orders for specific improvements, he simply got out his paintbrushes, lawn equipment, etc., and went to work on his personal quarters. The other officers and men, first on his block, then throughout the post, did the same thing, and Fort Benning was brightened up. The General could have given an order to clean up the base but chose instead to be a positive influence by his example, knowing other soldiers would see him and do the right thing.
People are looking for authentic leaders. They want to be lead, to be shown a better way, a higher road. People want to believe in leaders with high ideals, maybe in hopes that it will positively influence their own lives. People want to believe in someone, to look up to someone. They want to believe in the high ideals of integrity, consistency, reliable and trustworthy leaders who practice what they teach.
Model What You Mentor
If you are a mentor to anyone, you must model what you mentor. You cannot say one thing and do another and expect to have any impact or influence on your mentees. If you believe in honesty, be honest. If you teach integrity, live that standard where you always strive to do what’s right. If you coach reliability and trustworthiness, be reliable and trustworthy. If you advise accountability, make yourself accountable.
I know you might think this all rather obvious, but nothing disrupts your mentee’s growth more than seeing their mentor not model what he/she is teaching. What it says is that you don’t believe yourself what you are teaching. How confusing is that?
Your Actions Reflect What You Believe
Your actions will reflect what you believe. If you really believe all that stuff — integrity, honesty, reliability, trustworthiness — then you should be able to live those ideals. But if you cannot, then I question whether or not you believe in them. Are you a mentor mercenary doing it for the money, or true leader of people?
Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore was a hero in 1965 in the first major land battle in Vietnam between American and North Vietnamese troops. It was also the bloodiest; both sides suffered tremendous losses. Moore led 450 men of the 1st Battalion 7th Cavalry into the Ia Drang Valley. They never expected to be surrounded by 2,000 North Vietnamese soldiers. The battle ended with 230 Americans dead, 240 wounded and as many as 3,000 North Vietnamese dead. Only after everyone (including the dead and wounded) was removed from the battlefield did Moore fly out of the valley, putting his soldiers first and showing us what leadership should be about — living your convictions and putting others first.
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