What Does It Mean to Lead by Example?

Leading By Example

I want you to think of leadership by example in a couple of different ways.

We call this the Probability Path.

The reason it’s the Probability Path is because we never know exactly what the right thing to do is in any situation.

A lot of leadership happens in the gray areas.

What we want to do is play the probabilities.

We want to learn to play the probabilities. That’s about the best that we can do.

And how do you play the probabilities?

Making the Right Choice

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First of all, it is knowing that there are certain choices that I make that are likely to increase my character.

There are things I can do that are likely to increase my character. And there are things that I cannot do that are also likely to increase my character.

If I don’t talk badly about other leaders, that’s likely to increase my character.

If I don’t talk badly about anybody, that’s likely to increase my character.

If I do the right thing, when nobody’s looking, that’s likely to increase my character.

It’s not only what I do, but also what I don’t do.

And there are certain things I can do that are likely to increase my character.

Self-development is something I could do which is likely to increase my character.

There are things that I don’t do.

As an example, too much alcohol. That was something identified for my own life as there was a season in my life where I was drinking too much.

I don’t know that I could say I was an alcoholic. I don’t think I could say that.

But what I realized was that by deciding not to drink, that was a decision that I made because I felt like that it would like more likely lead to increasing my character. I realized that almost every regret I have had in my life, like most of the stupid decisions I had made, was when I was drunk.

It’s not that alcohol is bad. It was that I wasn’t handling it well. It’s easier for me to just not do this.

That’s super powerful.

Now, the inverse is also true.

There are choices that you can make. There are things that if I do it, it will likely decrease my character.

I’m reluctant to share examples here because my goal here isn’t to tell you what you should do or not do in your life, but it is to open you up to this idea that even though we operate in gray areas, if we play the probabilities and we know if there are certain things that we do, it increases the probabilities that we might do something stupid.

If I go to Vegas by myself, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be a bad person. But if I keep going to Las Vegas by myself, without my spouse, it increases the probability that I might do something stupid. It doesn’t mean that I would never do it. It just means that I would be aware of it, and I don’t want to continually put myself in situations that are likely to create temptation for something bad to happen or to do something wrong.

I was mentored by Zig Ziglar. He had three rules. He used to say, “I want to be home for church every Sunday when I’m traveling. I will call my wife three times every single day. And I will never, ever, ever be alone with another female.”

That was a rule that Zig Ziglar had. “I would never be alone with another female.”

It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t trust himself or that his wife didn’t trust him. It decreases the probability of something going wrong.

You’re playing the probabilities here when you lead by example. When you look at them together, we call this the Probability Path.  

Is this activity likely to increase my character? If yes, I should do it.

If not, I need to be aware of the things that are going to decrease my character and I’m making that calculation.

Ultimately, what I want to do as a leader is to live a life that stands up to the scrutiny of transparency.

Think about this.

What if your teammates could hear your thoughts about them? Would you be proud?

What if your leaders could hear the thoughts you had about them? Would you be proud?

What if your spouse or your kids could hear out loud the thoughts you had about them? Would you be proud?

That is something that I want–to live a life that stands up to the scrutiny of transparency.

If it ever got to the point that people could read every email, heard every conversation, or heard what I said when I was in a room all by myself, or even hear my thoughts, I wouldn’t be ashamed. I would be proud.

That is the aspiration of an influential leader,

That is a depth of character that is worth aspiring to even though people can’t hear our thoughts, they really can, right?

They really get a sense of how I really think about that person.

Even if I don’t say it out loud or say it to anyone else, if I’m saying it to myself, people will pick that up.

We have an uncanny sixth sense to be able to pick that up.

We must work on shaping our perspective.

Having Humility as a Leader

Unity of a team can only exist if there is humility among the individual leaders.

And one of the greatest expressions of leadership maturity is humility.

Humility is a sign that somebody has risen to a level of leadership to where they’re not trying to celebrate their own personal accomplishments.

That is what is required by leaders who lead by example.

How about you? Have you experienced the Probability Path? Comment below.

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