If there’s anything I’ve learned as the parent of a toddler, it’s that my son Landon imitates almost everything I do. If I’m on my laptop, he’ll grab his and start typing next to me. When we dance, he’ll mimic my (usually awful) dance moves. If I’m playing basketball, he jumps in. When my wife Joy starts to exercise, he’ll grab his maracas and start lifting them like weights.
But hopefully, Landon will catch more than just our genetics, use of technology, and exercise routines. We have 7 family goals that we tell Landon every night before bed:
- Live for God
- Love others
- Learn always
- Laugh often
- Lead with vision
- Listen to the wise
- Labor for what matters.
Truth is: it doesn’t matter how many times we say these goals to Landon. He won’t catch what we say if he doesn’t see and experience these goals lived out in our lives.
Leadership is a lot like parenting, and leadership is more caught than taught. “Like begets like.” This is why the Apostle Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” He pointed to his personal life – not just his words. Michael Hyatt says, “If you are a leader, like it or not, you will replicate yourself. Your followers will adopt your behaviors and habits.” This means that good leaders are always conscious that they are influencing people whether they know it or not – both in what they do and what they don’t do. This includes beliefs, behaviors and values—in communication, habits, time management, decision-making, finances, and faith.
Imitation follows modeling, meaning that you reproduce who you are and what you do as a leader. James Kouzes & Barry Posner say, “Leaders take every opportunity to show others by their own example that they’re deeply committed to the values they espouse. No one will believe you’re serious until they see you doing what you’re asking of others. Leading by example is how leaders make visions and values tangible. It’s how they provide the evidence that they’re personally committed.”
Good leaders are also good followers. Since you replicate who you are and what you do, it’s essential to follow Jesus effectively in your personal life. As others see you follow Jesus, they will follow your example of followership. Here’s what Kouzes & Posner identify as keys for effective leadership modeling:
- Personify shared values.
- Spend your time and attention wisely.
- Watch your language – how you say what you say is just as important as what you say.
- Ask purposeful questions – the best ones start with why?, what?, and how?
- Seek feedback because leaders are learners; don’t shy away from others’ help.
- Confront critical incidents by balancing love and truth.
- Tell stories & celebrate wins as often as you can.
- Reinforce and reward the behavior you want to be repeated.
GROUP ACTIVITY: Answer these questions around your table…What is something you believe, do, or value because you caught it from someone’s example rather than just their words? Who was that person, and how did you catch it from them?