Good Leaders Lead by Example More Than by Advice
Randy Wolken, President & CEO
As leaders, we will be judged more by what we do than by what we say. We may have all the right words and espouse all the latest leadership approaches, but if we only talk the talk – people will know that nothing has changed. Leaders must lead by doing what is needed and then talking about what they are doing. Do first and then describe what you are doing.
We want change to occur quickly today. The world is moving fast to the future – and we believe we must also. We do need to move to the future. However, change is action and not words we just say. Most change efforts at the organization level fail to meet expectations—or just fail completely. Why? People who work in the organization do not feel that leaders are truly committed to the change. They talk the talk but fail to walk the walk. Change is hard. If a leader only talks about change but does not change (and expects others to change) then the goal will not be accomplished. It will be the latest fad that was talked about but never executed. Leaders are about doing – not just talking.
Said another way, we can help people through advice but even more so by our actions.
Let me give you an example. A few years ago, at MACNY, we decided to shift toward weekly action planning instead of a monthly or yearly action planning. If we wanted fast and real change, we needed to execute much faster. So, we began the effort by describing what we were going to begin doing. Change – especially such a large change in the speed of execution – needed to be outlined. More importantly, we needed to actually do it. What did this mean from me? A rapid, massive commitment to different actions! We split our business into four areas of focus and we began weekly meetings of our Quads. I initially went to all four weekly meetings. So, did our COO, Cindy Nave. Even today, I go to three out of the four weekly meetings. Cindy goes to three out of the four as well. Only one meeting is not covered by both of us. Senior leaders needed to be at our team meetings and participate so that the change was real. And, it really is. When you speed up an organization so that it operates at four times the speed – a lot changes! Leaders like Cindy and me needed to change rapidly through our actions. If we had only talked about change, it would not have happened. We needed to live the change!
What changes are you and your team considering? Are you, as a leader, willing to live the change? Can you communicate why and how the change will occur? Can you start that change immediately – and sustain it? Good leaders lead by doing first – and only later through advice and insight.