Leading by Example
In the month of June National Income Life celebrated a record attendance of 143 leaders at the Leadership Academy 101 in McKinney, TX. In addition to this record, the company has 60 additional leadership registrations already for the next Academy in September because the subscription was so high. This is a testimony of the high regard the leadership holds in the Leadership Academy, the great speakers sharing their wisdom and what the experience can bring to all the new leaders in our organization. The Leadership Academy just keeps getting better and better.
In speaking with the leadership from my SGA teams, many were excited to get back and implement many of the ideas they learned over the 4 days. Many leaders had no fear in returning to their teams and taking their own agencies to a new level. They were all driven by the vision that they now felt compelled to implement. Others however, found the realization that they were in a position where others now rely on them be the ones to lead them and teach them all aspects of the business. This seemed a daunting prospect for some returning to their offices.
The learning curve for the leadership role is similar to the same experience one has as an National Income Life agent. As soon as you get confident of writing business and making money then a whole new set of tasks are upon you and the road blocks appear. The overriding piece of advice I gave to the leadership teams when they returned from the Leadership Academy was to “Lead by example”. Whilst they are learning all the new leadership functions, I encouraged them not to lose sight of what got them to Leadership 101: writing business, making money, getting awards and recognition, and being someone that everyone looks up to in the office. There is no better way in our business to get a dedicated following than “showing the way!!!”
It is a known fact that when you write business and lead the way, your team usually follows and writes business as well. Don’t forget the basics, and for us in this business it is writing business every week, hiring new talent and teaching / training new agents to be successful.
In addition to our business basics, here are 10 good guidelines (edited) from a book by A. J. Shuler that struck a chord.
1. The Lives We Live are the Lives We Create
Expectations are often self-fulfilling. If we expect life to be good, if we believe it is filled with opportunities and cause for celebration, then we will notice those things and live so as to promote them, even without conscious intent. You can (and do) nurture a basic attitude toward living, and if you don’t take control of it, it most assuredly will take control of you.
2. Health and Productivity go Hand in Hand
Balance in our life is important. In order to be productive and healthy, we all have to take care of our minds, bodies and spirits, but the reverse is also true: being productive is inherently healthy, and doing good, meaningful work that fits our talents can keep us alive and healthy a long time. Doing what you love to do, and doing it well, and especially helping other people learn and succeed, brings benefit back to you.
3. As We Treat Others, So Shall We Be Treated
Yes, there is injustice in the world, and yes, there is cruelty. Bad things happen to good people, and vice versa. But in general, we may sow what we reap. People notice how we treat them, especially when we are in positions of leadership, and most especially when we think no one is looking. What goes around comes around.
4. Don’t Wait for Solutions: Create Them
Two schools of thought here: the active and the passive. The passive and negative position waits for someone else to make a bad situation better; perhaps faulting others for their inaction (we see this in offices all the time). The positive and active position works to build a productive awareness among those who can influence a negative situation so that all can take collective action to make it better. Guess which type of person others naturally follow – and then imitate?
5. Negativity Kills
Literally. What is violence but an extreme expression of negativity? But killer negativity does not require a physical manifestation to wreck its havoc. We know that negative thinking weakens the immune system and contributes to disease and to an increase in mortality. We also know that negativity is contagious.” Why are people drawn to leaders? Because leaders, through their attitudes and abilities to resist or overcome negativity, function like antibodies in the world, fighting negativity and adding “life” to those around them.
6. Communication Starts with Listening
You don’t have to be great talker to be a leader. Think instead about asking better questions, and then repeat back your best understanding of what you’ve just heard. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn, and how much better you understand people you thought you understood before. Only once you’ve listened will you have earned the right to speak your own point of view, based on a more complete understanding of other people and the circumstances around them. That’s what makes a person an effective leader. By setting a tone of listening, others will follow suit.
7. Between Two Positions Always Lies a Third Option
Leaders know that dilemmas that come pre-packaged as “either-or” propositions are usually preset for failure. There is always at least one other way to view a situation, by expanding the issue, finding a third alternative or creating a negotiated compromise. There are certainly times not to compromise, but even that decision should only come after a creative examination of many possible approaches has been completed. But what makes leaders effective is their ability to generate those options, either through imagination or consultation, before making any final decisions.
8. Laughter Cures
Laughter is even more infectious than negativity, and at least as powerful a force for health. If the laughter comes at no one’s expense, but comes rather from a shared sense of the beauty and absurdity that we see all around us (especially in ourselves!), then people can be drawn to you, and your playfulness will catch on.
9. Do Great Work, Have Fun and Lend a Hand Along the Way
Good work is good. Great work is inherently rewarding. Do it with fun and style, and you are not a prisoner of your labor, but rather a master of your craft. If you help others along the way, either by teaching them or just by setting them up for their own success, then both life and work acquire greater meaning.
10. In the End, We Are All More or Less Human
We have bad moods and bad moments. We make mistakes; we have parts of our character that may be less than forever admirable. That just makes us human. Keeping this in mind helps us refrain from taking ourselves too seriously when we succeed or when we fail, and it also gives us some humility and perspective through which to understand the inescapable frailties of others. In the end, the pursuit of near-perfection is more important than its achievement, even if it is good to be competitive and dedicated to excellence in order to bring out the best in ourselves and others.
There are many facets of leadership to learn, but “leading by example” in the early tenure of your career can be a sure bet that you will create a dedicated group of followers.