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2017-07-24 Issue 7 Fundamental Behavior 6 – Lead By Example.
I was in a meeting recently and Allen Bogenschutz, YCA’s vice president of risk management, asked the audience, “How many of you are responsible for safety?” It was a trick question because he wanted everyone’s hand to go up because we’re all responsible for safety. Along these same lines, I could ask, “How many of you are leaders?” I, too, would expect every hand to go up because like it or not, we’re all leaders. And that is why Fundamental Behavior #6, “Lead by Example,” is such an important topic for us to discuss.
There’s no doubt that for any organization to function efficiently, it needs both leaders and followers. Imagine the chaos if everyone said, “Follow me,” and then marched off in different directions… with no one following. Sometimes we need to lead and sometimes we need to follow, depending on the situation.
But there’s one aspect of our lives in which we simply cannot escape our leadership responsibility, and that is the example we set every minute of every day. Our actions — good and bad — are often on display for everyone to see, and in this way we are leading by example. My hope is that the discussions you will be having about this Fundamental Behavior will be very animated, with everyone wanting to share her/his experiences and observations about leading by example.
Examples of positive leadership include being serious and conscientious about our responsibilities at work; showing our appreciation for our friends and colleagues; being positive rather than negative; going out of our way to ensure a safe, clean workplace by picking up someone else’s discarded paper towel, for example; and “doing the right thing, always” (Fundamental Behavior #1).
We certainly want to avoid situations where we seem to be endorsing our “friends” or colleagues who say or do something that is harmful or disrespectful towards another person. For example, if some of us are talking during break and someone is eager to share a rumor about someone who is not present, it would be admirable of us to say something like, “I don’t think we should spread rumors about our friend/colleague … ” or to simply walk away, choosing not to participate in spreading rumors. How interesting that we can lead, also, by walking away.
We never know who is watching us to see what we do before they decide what they will do. That’s what leading by example is all about, isn’t it? Our goal usually is simply to do the right thing, but at the same time we are leading, or we are teaching, or we are helping someone to find her or his way through life’s sticky situations.
I can promise you that if you are serious about leading by example, you will be rewarded in many ways, but primarily through the respect your friends and colleagues will show you for having stood your ground on principles that obviously matter to you. People notice the example you are setting.
When faced with many situations in business, I often pause and ask myself what Tadao Yoshida would have done. Or I think about the Cycle of Goodness and the Core Values. And now we can think about our 25 Fundamental Behaviors that can help us to decide what we need to do — what we should do — to be leading by example.
Chairman and CEO
YKK Corporation of America