Are You Smoking What You're Selling?

We welcome Mark Miller for the final post in a five-part series defining the core principles of Leaders Made Here.

Step 5 – Model It

More of leadership is caught than taught. I believe this: do you? If you do, what are the implications?

One is the seeming contradiction with the core premise of my book, Leaders Made Here. Does this idea of “catching leadership” undermine the entire premise that organizations can intentionally and strategically create a leadership culture? I don’t think so. However, the truth in this statement underscores why existing leaders have a vital role in creating and maintaining a leadership culture.

The process for creating a leadership culture has five tenets. In my previous posts, we reviewed Define It, Teach It, Practice It, and Measure It. Today, let’s focus on the final piece of the puzzle – Model It.

People always watch the leader(s). You know this is true, even when you wish it weren’t. People watch your every move. How you spend your time, how you treat people, the questions you ask, the way you respond to input and criticism.

How does your individual behavior impact the challenge of creating leadership culture? Here are a few thoughts . . .

How you invest your time – Do you support the strategy with your time? Does leadership development show up on the agenda for the meetings you lead? Do you invest time mentoring less experienced leaders? Do you allocate time to teach in formal settings? How you use your time is a look into your deepest priorities, and everyone sees the result.

How budgets are allocated – Are you allocating financial resources to leadership development? Not just the formal programs, but the individual self-directed development activities as well. I had a leader tell me his supervisor wouldn’t let him expense a leadership book he wanted to read. This says a lot about the priority of creating leadership culture. We fund our priorities.

How people are assigned – Are people assigned strategically with leadership development as a priority? Certainly, not every staffing decision is a leadership development play, but is it the exception when this happens? Do you have enough women and men assigned to the leadership development function? Do you have someone charged with leadership development as their first priority? If not their first, is leadership development someone’s assigned accountability?

How people are rewarded and recognized – If you want a culture in which leaders see the development of leaders as core to their role, the leaders who do these things are the ones you must recognize and reward. If you want a culture of servant leaders, you must promote the servant leaders. If you want a culture in which results and relationships are valued, give those leaders who do both additional opportunities. It was Plato who said:

“What is honored in a country (organization) is cultivated there.”

How you behave as a leader – This is huge. Because people always watch the leader, you and I must work diligently to become the type of leader we are encouraging others to become. “Are you smoking what you’re selling?” is a crucial question. If you advocate a model of servant leadership, you must strive to be a servant leader. To do anything less will destroy the culture before it is ever formed.

People cannot hear what we say if our voice is overpowered by what we do.

I’ll close this series with a re-statement of my core belief on the topic of creating a leadership culture. A never-ending supply of competent, values-based leaders creates a real sustainable competitive advantage. The good news is, the path is well-known, even if little traveled.

If you’re not in pursuit of this advantage, start today and enjoy the journey!