Quotes on leading by example: Become a mirror

“How do you inspire your team to do their best?
By example. I’ve always thought to lead by example, sir.”
(Invictus, dialogue by Mandela and Pienaar)

“- What would you ask then? – the HR person wondered, not amused.
– I’d ask, ‘How will you motivate our dishwashers.-
It’s a brilliant question, and one that the large hotel chain still uses today.[…] When the dishes are stacked high, as a manager you need to roll up your sleeves and start washing them, too. (For the record, only one MBA student got the answer right during Bill’s interviews that day and he was a former military officer.)”
(The Best Job Interview Question Ever, Gostick and Elton)

Anyway, on my first day of work for the sergeant major, I didn’t know what to expect. I was sure it was going to be horrible, a suspicion that seemed to be confirmed when he took me to the officers’ bathroom and told me I would be responsible for keeping it clean. And then he said something I didn’t anticipate.
“Here’s how you clean a toilet,” he said. And he got down on his knees in front of the porcelain bowl — in his pressed-starched-spotless dress uniform — and scrubbed it with his bare hands until it shined. (My Style of Servant Leadership, Inc.com, Spolsky)

It doesn’t matter how big is the company’s dress-code handbook. No matter how clear the Internet fair-use policy is, nor the rules and regulations you’re trying to implement. Your boss’s example will set the real rules for you. Your own example will set the real rules for the rest of the team.

Pick the not-so-good chair, the not-so-big screen, the old computer, the noisy place… and leave the better, bigger, newer, quieter ones for your team. If you do amazing work in spite of deficient means, if you empower your team instead of yourself, they will make the same to their co-workers and their subordinates. Don’t forget they are the people doing the real work and making the real product.

Become the mirror your people are eager to look themselves into.


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