The phrase lead by example gets thrown out a lot, so much so that we tend to focus on the word lead instead of the word example. The challenge that brings is when we forget that leadership only comes over time. It is not granted, given or born, leadership is earned by consistent behavior over a long period of time. Leadership is observed, experienced and learned by being around leaders and watching their example.
Being the example does not mean you are perfect or without fault, it simply means that you are human and when things go wrong you admit it, learn, and change. The best leaders I have known were the ones that made mistakes and showed us how they planned to make sure that mistake did not happen again. They taught by giving us an example to follow, one that was imperfect, which meant we too could lead without having to be perfect.
Solid leaders bring hope, decisions, a plan and build people into a better version than they ever thought they could be. They do this through relationships, encouragement, listening and actively learning all the time. When we “become” or think that we have arrived that is when the trouble starts. We no longer remember that people are watching and we do stupid stuff, as if we have read our own press clippings and believe we are perfect. People do not need perfect leaders, they need and want leaders in whom they can believe. Leaders they know are trying to do their best because they can see it in their actions. Leaders who lead by living a life and work ethic base on good example, good decisions, and solid actions.
When you are out today living your life and being yourself, what example are you leaving? What kind of leader does that make you? You may think that no one is around to see, when the most important person sees everything you do…and that person is YOU! If you cannot lead yourself well then why would anyone else follow you?