One more time: How do I lead by example?

You don’t. You never do.

Leading by example is based on a faulty assumption: that people will see only the behavior you want them to see and follow only the behavior you want them to follow.

News flash: the people who work with you see everything.

They see not only what you want them to see but they also see what you don’t want them to see.

They see not only what you do but they also see what you don’t do and what you choose not to do.

They see what you choose to do or not to do and to whom.

They see what you choose to do or not to do and for whom.

As a matter of fact, the more time they spend with you, the more clearly you reveal yourself to them. The longer they observe you, the less what you say matters. What matters more are your actions – and specifically how consistent they are over time.

They see when and how often you tell them what to do.

They see when and how often you ask for their opinion.

They see when and how often you admit not knowing something.

They see when and how often you admit you made a mistake.

They see when and how often you apologize… and when and how often you apologize in public when you offended in public.

They see when, how often, and how well you listen.

They see when and how often you praise in public. And how specific your praise is: not the anemic “good job!” but rather a vigorous acknowledgment of what exactly a team member does well and how that contributes to the good of the team.

In addition to being based on a faulty assumption, “leading by example” might also be caused by attribution bias (you believe that your behavior has caused theirs, that your “leading” has caused their “following”) or by buying into the narrative of the “heroic manager” (what I call the “Gandhi complex”). But that will have to wait for another post.

 


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We can overcome our empathy deficit

Given our current circumstances after six months of the pandemic, and not being anywhere near a new normal, you would think that we would be sensitive to the realities of the people around us. Well, according to Scientific American, it turns out we’re not.1

Empathy is a powerful force and human beings need it. Here are three things that might help to remedy our collective empathy deficit:

  1. Take the time to ask those you encounter how they are feeling, and really listen. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Remember that we all tend to underestimate other people’s emotional distress, and we’re most likely to do so when those people are different from us.
  2. Remind yourself that almost everyone is at the end of their rope these days. Many people barely have enough energy to handle their own problems, so they don’t have their normal ability to think about yours.
  3. Finally, be aware that what is empathy for one person may not be empathy for another person. It’s not a concept that speaks for itself. Asking your friends, family, and coworkers what empathy is for them might open a new door to understanding and helping those around us.

 

 

  1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-us-has-an-empathy-deficit accessed 200918 []

Any management equivalent to Truffaut and Godard?

A review of Two in the wave, a documentary on the friendship, collaboration and falling away of these two French filmmakers of the Nouvelle Vague makes me miss and look forward to more research on how managers who are successful (on their own and in their respective fields or industries) help and support each other.

As critics for the iconoclastic film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma in the early 1950s, Godard and Truffaut had shared a similar aesthetic. Their masters were Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Renoir, Roberto Rossellini and Fritz Lang, whose films were underestimated at the time and whom they defended with the pugnacity of young prizefighters. (FT.com)

I wonder who the captains of industry, today’s masters of the universe, look to as their “masters”: Mentors? Fellow executives in the same industry or in other industries? Professional coaches? Consultants? Management gurus? Whatever book they bump into at the airport bookstore?

It also makes me  look forward to a documentary on the collaboration of three Mexican film directors and producers who are doing excellent work together: Alejandro González Iñárritu, Alfonso Cuarón, and Guillermo del Toro. No rush though… not with the quality and original work they are producing these days.