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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Loss

In memory of my mother’s passing, I’m paraphrasing a passage from a book by Parker Palmer. It expresses exactly what I experienced. I share this as a way to reach out to other people who are dealing with loss and grief.

A few years ago, my mother died. She was more than a good person, and the months and years following her death were a long, hard winter for me. But in the midst of that ice and loss, I came into a certain clarity that I lacked when she was alive. I saw something that had been concealed when the abundance of her love surrounded me. I saw how I had relied on her to help me cushion life’s harsher blows.

When she could no longer do that, my first thought was, “Now I must do it for myself.” But as time went on, I saw a deeper truth: it never was my mother absorbing those blows but a larger and deeper grace that she taught me to rely on.

When my mother was alive, I confused the teaching with the teacher.

My teacher is gone now, but the grace is still there. And my clarity about that fact has allowed her teaching to take deeper root in me. Winter clears the landscape, however brutally, giving us a chance to see ourselves and each other more clearly, to see the very ground of our being.

 

Living with a notebook

I carry mine everywhere and jot down EVERYTHING in it: ideas, meeting notes, phone call notes, appointments, etc. I also use it to outline and draft articles, correspondence and any other writing I do.

As things get done or transferred to permanent platforms, I cross them off. As all items in one page get done, I draw a big X on a page. When both sides of a page have Xs,  I tear the page out. When all notes have been filed and all tasks completed, I throw away the notebook and start a new one.

I don’t keep my notebooks. I have no sentimental attachment to them. They help me keep all notes in one place and get things done.

Inspiration for this post comes from Design Observer.

 

007, Blindness, and the City of God

Daniel Craig has not stopped that franchise from letting him secure a slew of other roles to take on in between his adventures as 007. The actor currently has two pretty big films (The Invasion, The Golden Compass) coming out later this year, and is now in talks to star in Blindness — adapted from Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago‘s novel — and to be directed by Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardner). Also in talks to co-star alongside Craig is the very beautiful (and very talented) Julianne Moore. (Cinematical)

The latest 007 movie, Casino Royale, was quite sober on the technology/gadget front. Not a bad way to introduce the “new” Bond.

I enjoyed Saramago’s novel (writing “I enjoyed Blindness” would have made an awkward sentence) in spite its long sentences and the author’s disdain for punctuation. The book is an allegory. It will leave you wondering. Saramago received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998.

If you liked the photography in The Constant Gardener then you also want to see Meirelles’ City of God (Cidade de Deus). It was nominated for four Oscars.