Set the Example
One of the toughest aspects of being a leader is that you’re
always onstage. People are always watching you, always talking
about you, always testing your credibility. That’s why setting the
right example is so important, and why it’s essential to make use of all the tools you have available to set the example.
Leaders send signals in a variety of ways and in all kinds of
settings, and constituents pay attention to those signals so that
they can figure out what’s okay and what’s not okay to do. How
T A K E A C T I O N
you spend your time is the single best indicator of what’s im-
portant to you. Time is a precious asset, because once passed,
it can never be recovered. But if invested wisely, it can earn
returns for years. The language you use and the questions you
ask are other powerful ways that shape perceptions of what you
value. You also need feedback in order to know if you’re doing
what you say.
But it’s not just what you do that matters. You are also
measured by how consistent your constituents’ actions are
with the shared values, so you must teach others how to
set an example. Critical incidents—those chance occurrences
in the lives of all organizations—offer significant teachable mo-
ments. They offer you the opportunity to pass along lessons in
real time, not just in theory or in the classroom. Critical incidents
often become the sources of stories, and stories are among the
most influential teaching tools you have. And remember that
what gets reinforced gets done. You have to bring the right
people on board, orient them, develop them, and make sure
that all systems strengthen the appropriate behavior that you
expect to be repeated.
To Model the Way, you need to set the example by aligning actions with shared values. This means you have to
• Make sure your calendar, your meetings, your interviews,
your emails, and all the other ways you spend your time
reflect what you say is important.
• Keep your commitments; follow through on your promises.
• Repeat, repeat, and repeat phrases that evoke the feelings
that you want to create in your workplace.
• Ask purposeful questions that keep people constantly
focused on the values and priorities that are the most
• Publicly ask for feedback from others about how your
actions affect them.
• Make changes and adjustments based on the feedback you
receive; otherwise people will stop bothering to provide it.
• When a situation—especially an unplanned one—arises
that dramatically illustrates a shared value, make sure to
call attention to it.
• Broadcast examples of exemplary behavior through vivid
and memorable stories that illustrate how people are and
should be behaving.
• In every way you can, reinforce the behavior you want
Use The Leadership Challenge Mobile Tool app to immediately integrate these activities into your life and make
this practice an ongoing part of your behavioral repertoire.
INSPIRE A SHARED VISION
The future holds little certainty. There are no guarantees or easy paths to any destination, and circumstances can change in a moment. Pioneering leaders rely on their own
internal compass and a dream.
Leaders look forward to the future. They hold in their
minds ideas and visions of what can be. They have a sense of
what is uniquely possible if everyone works together for a
common purpose. Leaders are positive about the future, and
they passionately believe that people can make a difference.
But visions seen only by the leaders are insufficient for
generating organized movement. Leaders must get others to
see the exciting future possibilities. They breathe life into
visions. They communicate hopes and dreams so that others
clearly understand and share them as their own. They show
others how their values and interests will be served by the
long-term vision of the future.
Leaders are expressive, and they attract followers through
their energy, optimism, and hope. With strong appeals and
quiet persuasion, they develop enthusiastic supporters.
In the next two chapters, we will explore how you must
• Envision the Future by imagining exciting and
• Enlist Others by appealing to shared