Why is leading by example so important?
Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:2-5
We hear it all the time: “Lead By Example” but do we ever take the time to conduct a self-check to ensure that we have an understanding of the breadth and depth of the application? What makes leading by example so important to the hierarchal health of the organization? In order to answer the questions, we’ll need to break down the approach through the lens of others. Firstly, we need to consider the “whys” in order to understand why leading by example is important to our flock, our subordinates, our children and our followership. Then we need to understand the application of the “whys” so that we can fill the gaps.
How do our children first begin to learn? From the time that we are babies, naturally, we begin to behave in ways that we learn from our environment. Some things are inherent and God-given. Have you ever watched an infant stretch and yawn? How do they know how to do that? They just do, they didn’t have to model your behavior in order to learn how to do those things. But what about other learned habits and traits, where do they first learn how to behave and how is their journey of personality and character development shaped? It’s shaped through your behaviors and your habits. When you get angry, they cry. When you are happy and playful, they respond in kind (usually). They learn how to treat others and how to make decisions by your example and your tutelage. Plan accordingly and be aware of the weight of your role. Jesus compels us to model His behavior, as this is pleasing to the Lord as evidenced through scripture:
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” 1 Timothy 3:1-7.
As parents of young children, we’re thrust into the office of overseer, whether we’re prepared for it or not and the child will flourish and naturally follow your example.
In leadership, whether explicit or implicit, all eyes are on you, constantly measuring whether or not you’re to be trusted, and whether or not you’re worthy of a followership. Think about how you gauge a good leader. What attributes do they possess that you respond to and want to follow? How do you behave if your boss or church pastor is not practicing what they preach? How do you view that leader and how does that affect your perception of the organization? Your decisions and behaviors have a direct impact on the lives, perceptions, and character development of your followership.
While those are the “whys”, what do they imply (in our leadership behavior)?
Where we’re responsible for the well-being of others, we have a greater level of responsibility, not only for the “care and feeding” of those within our sphere of influence but for continuous improvement and professional (and often personal) development of those within our care. Having and understanding our roles as leaders, and having responsibility for others causes us to place the needs of others before our own.
“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12
Placing the needs of others before our own will ultimately lead to times of self-sacrifice. We have to give of ourselves for the betterment of others. In the new-baby example, we sacrifice many things as new parents, primarily our sleep as we adjust to the new “baby-schedule”. As leaders in the military, business, or church we sacrifice our time as we pour into our subordinates, protégés, or our flock.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11
The definition of integrity is: “The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” You may have also heard the application of integrity as “doing the right thing, even when nobody is looking.” Either definition gives you a moral and ethical framework and compass for which to gauge your decisions and your activities. Acting with integrity is important in the eyes of your followership as it creates and nurtures trust within your relationship and can foster a culture of trust within your organization. Having integrity in your actions, and being trustworthy to your subordinates creates an open and healthy work environment for your people.
“My lips will not speak falsehood, and my tongue will not utter deceit. Far be it from me to say that you are right; till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days.” Job 27:4-6
Above all, we need to remain consistent. Consistency provides a safe-haven within a messy and inconsistent world. Where you’re consistent in your behaviors as a leader, your followership will benefit. If you’ve displayed that you’re approachable, methodical, intentional, and deliberate then your followership will know where they stand with you and can be made to feel comfortable to confide in you during times of indecision or workplace conflict.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58
How do you measure up? They say that a true scholar never stops learning. I’ll say the same of a true student of leadership, in that we never stop improving or adding tools to our leadership toolbox. Whether you lead at home, as a parent, or you lead in your church ministry, your role at work, or just in general as the “leader” within your sphere of influence as somebody that people trust to make decisions; we never stagnate, we never stop improving ourselves as the landscape of leadership is an often fluid and dynamic environment. The ways we lead in the military, don’t always transition to the ways we lead in our homes, or in our civilian work occupation, or in our church ministry leadership role. Understanding situational leadership implies a well-rounded approach. So in that, we need to stay relevant and up to date with the traditions of leadership so that we can continue to lead effectively in our roles. What courses are you enrolled in for this year? How are you improving in your role?
“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,” Hebrews 5:11-12