I was listening to a success magazine CD in the car last week. One of the regular contributors is John Maxwell who regularly discusses leadership. John is a well renowned author and speaker on the topic and as expressed before in previous blogs, his knowledge and wisdom is exceptional.

The topic he was discussing in this CD was the importance of intentional leadership with some great discussion around role modelling the right behaviours. A line that really grabbed me was his simple but powerful comment that people do what they see. That is, they align their activity to what their leaders do.

As simple as this sounds, it is amazing to see so many leaders who do not appreciate or recognise this fundamental principle that governs leadership. A strategic plan, values document, the latest team building activity are all insignificant in comparison to how constructive a leader is with their actions. The video of a leader is more important than any audio and areas of focus that the business has. This is particularly important given the higher levels of visibility a leader has where every person watches you, looks at where your focus is and seeks direction often as to how to proceed. People want leaders they can follow and aspire to.

Saying hello in the morning to colleagues before they start their day is a positive behaviour for leaders to do and others to follow. Ensuring clear direction is provided through asking the right questions and ensuring outcomes are agreed at the end of each meeting. Making time to plan so that they are intentional and prepared for every day. Ensuring they are focussing on big rocks rather than pebbles to drive focus and accountability on what matters within their teams. Being visible on site or within the office by walking the floor which engages others all are activities that people take note of.

All these items above are small but all lead to others in team displaying the same behaviours. The ripple effect within a team and organisation is significant and does lead to a demonstration of the leaders behaviours throughout an organisation or project. The opposite behaviours described above that are displayed have the counter effect. This is why visible and transparent leadership from your most senior leaders has such a positive effect on culture and engagement of staff. It is not only seeing the leader that is important but what they do, how they do it and what this means for our roles, our focus and our behaviours.

People do what they see. Not what you write, not what you say or what you don’t do. Grasp on to this point as a leader and you will see your team and others replicating the very positive impacts that they have seen. The challenge for all leaders is freeing up enough time to have the positive impact that we want to have.