One of the most powerful things a leader can do is lead by example. Business consultant and author, Warren Bennis, once said, “Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing.”
How leaders do the right thing is a fitting sequel to an earlier post I wrote about storytelling. Narrative is a critical tool for leaders who need to share insight and inspire their people, but storytelling has an essential counterweight, and that’s action. A company can be powerfully motivated by its leader’s narrative but those words have to connect with consistent action that mobilizes. Together, they can inspire your people to visualize, act and eventually be leaders themselves.
I read a great story in Forbes about Carrie Hammer, founder & CEO of Carrie Hammer Designs, and her experience with mentorship. One of Hammer’s most memorable mentors was her sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Baumgartner, fondly known as Mrs. B.
Hammer moved when she was in sixth grade and naturally felt socially isolated in her new surroundings. In school, math didn’t interest her and she placed in the lowest of four levels. This obviously didn’t bode well for Hammer’s future in high school or college but she had other worries. One day, Mrs. B pulled her aside and said, “Carrie, you’re better than this. You’re smarter than this. I’m going to sit with you every day after school until we get you to the math class you deserve.”
Hammer and Mrs. B worked together every day after school, moving her through each level of math class until she was getting the best grade in the top class. Hammer went on to win a math award in high school and successfully studied economics at UCLA. Today, Hammer leads a successful fashion company and is a Forbes Under 30 alumna who has over one billion media impressions without a PR agency. Mrs. B and her intervention with Hammer is a perfect example of a leader doing the right thing.
Why does seeing a leader do the right thing matter so much? Because it’s how we learn to be great leaders ourselves. Are you a Mrs. Baumgartner in your organization? In what ways could you do the right thing?
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