THE POWER OF EXAMPLE

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The greatest frustration I see in leaders is that their teams do not do things the way they need to be done.

There are many factors about leadership that make this happen, but there is ONE that is highly underrated: the power of example. In times when the discussion about being a boss and being a leader is everywhere, we can recognize that the first thoughts of fear arise in the leader when, in front of others, they legitimize him or her as such. “Will I be good enough? Did I really deserve this position? What if I’m wrong?” If these doubts are not overcome, the leader ends up becoming weak, stale, absent or aggressive. Sadly, we know many cases like this. The formal legitimacy of function is important, but not decisive in order to impact others.

Last week a 10-year-old boy was asking his Dad to buy him a book. A novel of more than 200 pages. Small print. My wife and I were surprised by the dedication and interest shown by the child, as well as his patience, waiting for his father to buy it. My wife left the bookstore not without first congratulating the father on the avid reader. “From a very young age he reads a lot,” said the father between humility and pride, before he caught my ill-concealed attention. Then Dad asked the employee at the cash register if they did not have a cheaper version. When the cashier answered that it was the only one, the father said to the boy with a sad note in his voice: “son, let’s go to this other store to see if there is a cheaper one, if not, then I’ll use the credit card.”

Without giving it much thought, I butted into the conversation and told them that it would be an honor for me to give that book to the child. Then I saw how the magic unfolded. Not in them. The cashier, without thinking twice, said, “Ah, in that case let me use my employee card and give them a 15% discount.” The child thanked us immediately, and the bookstore employee, the Dad and I were smiling ear to ear. I said goodbye and minutes later I saw how the father and son walked happily away. He hugged him, kissed him on the head and they went on their way, holding hands.

That cashier could have received an induction course, an e-learning course about organizational competencies and customer service, been asked to sign his job description, have had a meeting where his boss told him that client focus is important, or even have launched a social “Chain of Favors” type campaign. But that day, in less than a second, the action of a stranger impacted his behavior.

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