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A leader's thoughts on leadership

December 11, 2015
Borderless Leadership

Here is a question: Which of the following leaders would you follow?

* The leader who describes smart ideas and plans, and then works to convince you to follow, but actually does not walk the talk.

Or

* The leader who, with only a few, clear words, communicates the ideas and plans, and then jumps right in to put the ideas to work or execute the plan.

I’ll bet that most of you would follow the latter one. Most human beings tend to follow one leader. This human trait is very effective for leaders with an inclination to lead from the front, by example.

Unfortunately leading from the front, by example, is a forgotten leadership style, particularly in larger organizations.

Successful entrepreneurs at small- and mid-size companies deploy this leadership method very effectively, probably instinctively. I have seen entrepreneurs make it clear by example that it is not a good idea to leave a machine untidy after a day’s work. Or that it is a good idea to pick up trash from the company premises. They do so by doing the work themselves, not by calling the janitor to do it. So even in small things, leading by example can often make a huge difference in employee’s attitudes.

Most employees would not dare to ignore these strong signals. Instead, they will start behaving the way the leader does. It is clear to most employees that doing otherwise risks their future with the company.

Problems can arise in SME companies when the SME owner does not set the right example, due to lack of knowledge or sloppy practices. In these examples, the SME owner sets a bad example, say, by ignoring important quality measures in production or constantly allowing the warehouse to be disorganized. I have seen this happen many times and being particularly detrimental to the SME’s future. These SME owners lead from the front, but they lead in the wrong direction.

Famous military leaders were not afraid of leading from the front, by example. The teams of such leaders perform better than opposing teams that are lead (or rather not lead) from behind. This goes for business leaders as well.

Unfortunately I can’t recall hearing of any political leader being famous for leading from the front. Currently in politics there is, pretty much worldwide, a leadership vacuum, because politicians are only focused on their own interests.

Leaders of large corporations often attempt to impose leadership-by-powerpoint. They drone on in numerous meetings, which usually doesn’t work. What usually happens in such situations is that employees begin to express themselves the same way as the leader — ineffectively. Leadership-by-powerpoint lacks the impact of a leader leading from the front, by example.

Often, leaders within large corporations — even so called “top managers” — do not feel confident leading from the front, by example.

Leading from front, by example, requires the following:

  • Very strong character
  • Being bold and not afraid of “loosing face”
  • Vision, and truly believing in it
  • Being honest with yourself
  • Getting your hands dirty

Having seen it happen many times, I am convinced that leading from front makes a dramatic difference in business, particularly when change is needed.

By R. Paul Vuolle, CEO, Bellevue SME Advisors GmbH

Source: Industry Week

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