Leading by Example or Authority?

In one form or another, we’ve all heard the mantra, “Lead by Example.”

It makes sense, but the more I dig into this, the more I’m confronted with the fact that I don’t do it as much as I could.


It occurs to me this usually takes a lot more commitment than I’m willing to give. When I take an honest look at myself, I don’t just want to influence others, I want to outright change their behavior – and I want it now!

In order for the real spirit of “Leading by Example” to be effective, it seems like it takes a lot of patience and maturity.

Recently I read an article at Inc.com that talked about CEO, Larry Jansky. He is worth $100 million, and he regularly picks up trash in the men’s room. I’m guessing that’s not part of his job description, but it gives others permission to do the same. This small act speaks to larger accountability as a leader.

Can we really expect others to do the stuff we won’t do ourselves?

So much of what we do as business consultants is wrapped up in this philosophy. We at Momentum have a commitment to live this work. It’s the biggest privilege of being part of this group, and as you might imagine, it’s also one of the most challenging.  

This couldn’t be more relevant and important than in the world of parenting.

I haven’t even entered the teenage years with my son yet, and my dad-ego has already been bombarded with countless opportunities to lead by example or dominate with authority. At any moment, I’m either teaching him compassionate understanding…. or problem solving by force. And in the heat of the moment, less conscious solutions often occur as irresistible options.

My son is a keenly aware audience of one, and obviously, the stakes are high. What I do now and how I do it will likely be mimicked or rebelled against for a lifetime. The same goes for the people we work with, because as leaders, it’s not just our children that are watching.

Especially if you are in a leadership role, every moment is a teaching moment.

What are you teaching?


Fundamental of the Week #21: LEAD BY EXAMPLE The best way to influence others is “being the change you want to see.” Bring a calming presence. Help others to shine.

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