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Are your actions and words in alignment?

In the Dare to be Great leadership workshops we discuss Three Elements of Integrity from Brene Brown PhD. I first heard Brown talk about this in a presentation I watched online and the was pleased to see she wrote about it in her book Dare to Lead. The third element is: Practice Your Values, Don’t Just Preach Your Values. When I read through the research by Stephen McGuire PhD. On Professionalism in Policing prior to interviewing him for the Excellence in Training Academy, one of the things that jumped out at me was the explanation that if you want to have a professional organization the people in formal leadership positions, especially senior leadership positions, need to practice the values of the organization. Ralph Waldo Emerson said some version of, “Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear the words that you speak.”

In order to practice your values you need to know what they are, which is the first problem in many organizations. Once you know what they are you need to reflect on what they mean and what behaviors would demonstrate those values. You also need to know what behaviors violate those values. That is one of the many benefits of making the core values of your organization part of the culture and it is also one of the many benefits of conducting the Above the Line / Below the Line exercise with your people. Once you do this you need to spend time honestly reflecting on your own behaviors and ask yourself, “Am I living and practicing the things I claim to value? Do my actions match my words? Or do I have a double standard?”

At a trainers’ conference a few years ago, I was attending a presentation on Generational Issues. At one point the discussion went to the use of technology such as phones, tablets, and computers in the classroom. Two attendees were very outspoken against letting the students in their academies even bring their cell phones into the building as, “”The new generation” could not be trusted not to be on their phones checking social media during class.” The facilitators managed the discussion professionally.  As soon as the facilitators moved on to the next topic of discussion both outspoken trainers immediately picked up their cell phones and started checking social media, the very behavior they just said was unacceptable.

At a leadership workshop I was facilitating, a person in a senior leadership position sauntered into class one day 20 minutes late with their takeout coffee in hand. They put their coffee down on their table (at the back of the room) and then sauntered over to the restroom before coming back and sitting down at their table, now 30 minutes into the class. The previous day during the Above the Line / Below the Line exercise they were very vocal and very critical about “the new generation” and the fact they can’t be trusted to show up to work on time and give you a full effort.

If you want to be an effective leader you need to walk the talk and practice what you preach. This is hard. We are all human and humans are flawed, and we will all screw up. Your people do not expect you to be perfect, but they do expect you to be striving to be consistent and practice your values. It is not acceptable to have a standard for your people, and then act as if it does not apply to you. You need to be a Lighthouse Leader, not a Weathervane Leader.

If you create a culture of Responsibility and Accountability in your piece of the organization then people will be willing to hold you to account for your action when you deviate of the establish standards and allow to take responsibility for your actions.

Remember that leadership is a choice and a journey, and it starts with you. Choose well, keep learning, and enjoy the journey.

Brian Willis

Register yourself, and your team for the Dare to Be Great: Strategies for Creating a Culture of Leading online workshop to get everyone on the same page regarding leadership and culture. If you are interested in hosting a live Dare to Be Great workshop reach out to me at