I don’t know any other way to lead but by example. -Don Shula
There a few clearer statements of why Level Five leaders do the right things when no one is looking than Coach Don Shula’s statement above; yet, too many don’t lead that way. One does not need to dig too deep to find examples of failed leadership in business, government, the military, education, and the church. It is hard not to conclude that the Nation is in crisis with a failure in leadership. The recent example of a bishop in the Roman Catholic church resigning after knowingly tolerating one of his priests viewing child pornography, doing nothing about it for more than six months, casts a dark shadow on how some choose to lead.
Perhaps these leaders think they can be selective about setting the example, about doing right. But nothing could be further from the truth. There are no convenient options for leaders – no places to escape the watchful eyes of followers. Someone always knows.
True leadership is not about the fear of discovery; rather, it’s about being confident in doing right. When integrity is an absolute, everyone knows the standard. Great leaders live the absolute standard of integrity. Their teams do the same. We have to stop tolerating the so-called leaders who don’t live by the standard that integrity in non-negotiable. We see them everywhere today, and it’s time to say “Enough!”
It’s time to take ownership of leadership, and demand our leaders serve as role models, not just people who happen to be in charge. As Lee Thayer writes in his excellent book, Leadership: Thinking, Being, Doing (WME Books, 2007) leaders must have “covenants” with those they lead:
This is how people develop themselves. They look for the best role models in the world and go to school there. If that is not you, it should be. But if you’re not the best there is in your role, and they use you as their role model, the future of your organization is already in doubt. (p.212)
We are at a critical juncture in this Nation where leadership failures threaten our future, where lack of role models, ownership, and “selective” integrity are pervasive in many organizations – in every profession. As long as we tolerate that kind of leadership, we will reap the outcomes. We think it’s time to do what’s right, and demand leadership by example – 24/7.
Let’s commit to becoming, and developing, leaders with integrity as an absolute.
You can read our other posts about leadership here.