In any society, there are laws that govern the way the people live. Anybody who acts contrary to the law is either locked up away from the society or made to pay a fine or some damage.

The organization or business world is also a society on its own and therefore has laws that must be adhered to. These laws are called the core values and policies of the organization, which are the guiding principles that dictate behavior and action. It is something that has been agreed on as the acceptable way of conduct. That is why it is not surprising when someone is dismissed or penalized for not complying with the dictates of the law.

The Apostle Paul, in one of his letters to the church in Corinth said, “…but I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others, I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:2. This verse tells me one thing; there is a tendency for people to say one thing and do the other.

Those who mostly fall culprit to these acts are the people in authority. Why? This is because they have the ability to bend the rules in their favor. After all, they have been given the mandate to uphold it. When subordinates realize that their superiors have this “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy about them, it leads to serious repercussions such as civil disobedience or rebellion against authority. Take the French Revolution for instance; one of the elemental issues was poverty, which was provoked by social inequality, as all peasants were liable to pay taxes, whereas the nobility claimed immunity to feudal dues paid to the local lord.

Leaders set the tone and create the work environment. They do so by their actions and how they choose to positively empower those that look up to them for guidance. It is the responsibility of the leader to not only tell people what to do, but to also encourage them to move towards attaining great things for the organization. This can be accomplished by being an example yourself.

In a classic study, the anthropologist Lionel Tiger found that the average baboon looks at the alpha male once every 20 to 30 seconds, for guidance. Human beings are not much different. We look up to those with the most power in any given situation for cues about what is acceptable behavior and what is not. One of the greatest leaders of all time who walked his talk was Mahatma Gandhi. He committed himself to using non-violence as a tool to fight against injustice. People followed in his path and he led them and India to independence – because he proved, by example, that this could be accomplished. Even though Gandhi’s circumstances may be different from others, the theory is the same. When you lead by example, you make it easy for others to follow you.

One other unlikely example that is relevant in this case is that of the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. When he wanted to cleanse Zimbabwe of all the slums, he first of all went to his own political party head office and started the demolition from there. Though it did not sit down well with a lot of people, everybody was prepared for the event.

When you want your employees to give customers a delightful experience, start by giving your employees a delightful experience. By your act, they will learn from you and channel it to others.

When leaders do not “practice what they preach,” it can be almost impossible for a team to work together successfully. There is no way you can preach virtue, practice vice, and expect positive results. If you expect people to play by the rules you have set for them, then you should be the first to practice it. The emphasis here is that when you lead by example, you make it easy for others to follow you.

By Dorothy Owusu


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