How will you Model the Way?

Last week, I had the opportunity to work with the Tri Valley Health Systems leadership group on modeling the way with the organization’s values. Model the Way is the first practice of exemplary leadership in The Leadership Challenge, by Barry Posner and James Kouzes.

Preparing for the activity made me think about why I am interested in leadership. As I thought about it, I realized it came from my dad, who modeled the way as I grew up. I remember when I was little and the city manager John Mathis, and his old pickup, would be over at our house talking to my dad when he was mayor. I saw my father take a leading role in our church and create new opportunities for people to worship. I saw my father present himself at a variety of events in the community and with his business at the funeral home. He invited me to attend Rotary meetings when I was in high school and college and could make the meetings. He never lectured or discussed ‘leadership’ with me, but he didn’t have to, he lived it.

It is a little cliché to say, “More is caught, than taught,” but it is true. The values we hope the people in our organization will follow will result from how the leaders model the values. There are other positive leaders who I’ve seen model the way as I grew up. In college, I had the opportunity to work for Pat McBride, the Director of New Student Enrollment. One of our groups values was promptness, which was essential to registering 5,000 freshmen throughout a summer. To be on time for the morning bus to east campus, we had to be five minutes early. Pat lived this as he was usually in his office two hours early to get his office work done so he could focus on us and the new students during the day. This is one of many great values he modeled.

In McCook, I see it with Mark Graff, chairman of the board of MNB Bank. One of their organization’s values is being involved in the community. Mark leads the way. He is active in a variety of community organizations from Optimists, HTC Youth, Youth Change Reaction, Norris Institute, McCook College Boosters, McCook Economic Development Corporation, and many others. Not only is he a part of these groups, he is an active member and serves as treasurer for many of these groups. It is easy to see the rest of the bank staff follow his lead.

In the past, I’ve modeled the way poorly. When I was Director of Admissions at Northeastern Junior College, I told my staff it was important to have balance and not be tied to the job. At the same time, I constantly sent e-mails at night and on the weekend. Even though I said to not worry about them until regular work hours, the message I was sending was you better be connected at all times. I’m glad I’ve learned from this on how not to model the way.

My challenge to you is to look at a groups, workplace, or organizations you are involved and figure out how you are going to model the way. When people within your organization and outside of it see you, how you work, how you spend your time, and how you interact with others what message are you going to send? Take a moment to figure out what it looks like to believe, think about, and act as a values champion. Complete these sentences to clarify what this looks like to you:

·      I believe . . . . . . .

·      My thoughts will . . . . .

·      My words will . . . .

·      My behaviors will . . . . .

No matter what position you have in your organization, if you are a values champion you will influence others around you and make a positive difference for them and the people you serve.

One Side Note: I am currently looking for one more community interested in having a community leadership program starting this fall. Let me know if you would want to talk more about this opportunity.