A Leader’s Ongoing Obligation: To Serve As A Role Model
The words role model are used frequently to describe a leader’s purpose. Cliches like “walk the talk” describe leaders’ obligations to act on a daily basis just as they would want their teammates to behave.
It is easy to aspire to serve as role models for our teammates. However, aspiration and execution are very different things. Serving as a role model during good times is easy for leaders. What about during tough times? What about during a once-a-century pandemic?
How have you been showing up for your team this year?
Have you been cognizant of your obligation to be a role model for your teams in your attitude, your behaviors and your responses to difficult conditions? Pause and think about your role modeling since March?
Years ago I was exposed to this true story:
“There was a six-year-old boy living in the same Indian community as Mahatma Ghandi. This boy had a very strong sweet tooth. He couldn’t resist sugar. Because he was diabetic, the sugar created painful boils all over his body.
His parents took him to the doctor, who said the boy must avoid all sweets; otherwise, the ailment would not go away. The parents nagged the boy every day to stop eating sugar, but this was a challenge the boy wasn’t willing to overcome.
In desperation, the boy’s mother came to Ghandi and asked if he could please convince her boy not to eat sweets. Ghandi said, “Come back in 15 days and I’ll speak to him then.” So the mother came back after 15 days. Ghandi took her son aside and spoke to him for a few minutes. The boy went home and immediately gave up sweets.
The mother was puzzled. She asked Ghandi later, “Why did you ask us to come back after 15 days? And what miracle did you perform to get my son to quit eating sweets?
Ghandi replied that it wasn’t a miracle. Said Ghandi, ‘When your boy first came to me, I too had been eating sugar.’ He told the boy that he couldn’t ask him to do something that he, Ghandi, wasn’t willing to do himself.”
As we move ahead into 2021, addressing the dissemination of two amazing vaccines and the prospect of continuing to work from home for an undetermined period, it is incumbent upon us as leaders to remember our role modeling mission.
Our teammates are always looking at us. We maintain expectations for them, and we must adhere to the same expectations for ourselves.