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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Leadership Is Actions and Words

Even when he was a little guy, my son had picked up some mannerisms and used some phrases that mirrored mine. I first made this discovery when he had a vocabulary of only three 'words': ma, da, chit – he learned the latter term when I got to the bank after the drive-in window had closed for the weekend (long before ATMs).

Our kids are like a sponge – they absorb everything and are constantly observing parents for the standard of how to do and act.

I was under constant scrutiny – my actions and conversations were a model for my son's development – it was an inspiring (and scary) realization for me – for him, I was a role model.

Actions and words of a leader have a similar impact on their followers and others outside the organization.

George Washington was a masterful leader in words and deeds. Notable examples are how he retained the army for the second crossing of the Delaware and the Cornwallis surrender.

A pivotal point in the Revolutionary War was the crossing of the Delaware for the battle of Trenton – unfortunately, the commitment of virtually all army troops had expired before the operation could be launched. General Washington got no takers when offering to pay the soldiers, but got an overwhelming response when he spoke with the troops, saying that they would never have another opportunity in their lifetime which would have such a significant effect on the future of the country and their freedom, as was facing them right now – and that he would be honored to have them fighting by his side to succeed in winning the battle – leading by example and appealing to the higher purpose.

The Army defeated the British in the seige of Yorktown, General Cornwallis sent a message that they wished to surrender and wanted to present his sword to General Washington to complete the process.

Washington refused to accept the sword, instead indicating his second in command, Benjamin Lincoln, would be the recipient. Lincoln had been defeated by Cornwallis in an earlier battle and honoring Lincoln in this manner would salve the pain of that loss, as well as signify Washington's continuing confidence in his Second. Also, this would make the defeat more memorable to Cornwallis, when his sword was not received by the leader of the Revolutionary Army.

As with a parent and child, the leader's actions are always being observed, his or her words are listened to and interpreted, and the leader's consistency in saying what they do and doing what they say is constantly monitored. Success is determined by the collective results – which achieved by the words and actions of the leader and the reception and implementation by the followers.

A leader who keeps in mind the effect of actions, words, and the consistency of the two may be successful in avoiding the equivalent of a three word vocabulary which includes an inappropriate word.



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