As leaders we are consistently offered, not given, opportunities to set examples each day. Every time we unlock our front door or open our computers to start our day is a fresh start; a do-over or a repeat as needed moment in our lives. Perhaps take a quiet visit with yourself and ask only one question, “What is one thing I did yesterday that was to the benefit of others?”
This is not a rose colored glasses question, but when you give it a moment of thought, the examples that you established yesterday will be remembered far longer than the achievements you have earned to date.
Earning an employee of the year award, serving as Past Service Club President, getting a hole in one with your golf friends in witness, hitting a small jackpot on a slot machine, or winning a ribbon at an art show, etc. are all great and valued achievements. They carry pride, value of accomplishments, and they certainly contributed to the exhilarating feeling of personal victory and success. These are earned victories. No one gave them to you, and you cannot predict when the next achievement is headed your way, but know it will find you.
Examples are not just the lessons we have learned from others, but also the ones we have shared. Examples have no shelf life, no expiration date. Wander in your mind and review the examples that your favorite teacher gave you that you still remember and admire. Mine is my 6th grade teacher Mr. John Miller. His examples were hands-on with math and science. He did not just teach the subjects, but rather he let each student “experience” math and science. We once built a 12-foot tall kite with specifications for the width and the length of the tail. We finished it; all signed our names on it, got a strong nylon rope, and waited for a windy day. Well fly it did and how great it was that every student was part of the planning, building, preparation, speculation, and flight of this large example of science and math.
This is not much different than our nonprofit and private sector organizations we are associated with.
Examples can be as small as opening a door for someone carrying packages at the post office or as large as opening a large industrial park that will provide hundreds of jobs for decades.
Examples happen on purpose, and you are the architect of each one. Often we do not start the process with the mindset of setting an example, but the end result is just that.
There is no doubt in my mind if you paused for a few moments, you could all think of an example that has been part of your success in your organization and your life. You can also reflect back in the last month and identify an example that you set that others will benefit from.
If you work with a board of directors, this is a great topic for an open conversation to discuss what examples your organization is leaving in the past as you constantly move forward and build your business development center, tourism program, member appreciation program, etc.
Think of examples in a different zone than achievements. Both have their value, risk, and reward, but only one has an expiration date in the minds of others.