The value of example
Consider how often we have heard, and even used the phrase: “lead by example”. There is no denying that this expression is imbued with the truth; indeed, it has been conveyed through popular wisdom and has become one of the proverbs of it.
If we focus on the world of education, it is not easy to preach things that differ from what we ourselves practice. In this case we are talking about coherence between being and doing.
The value of example is hugely powerful in the field of values. It is hard for someone to claim they are a pacifist when they themselves act like a despot, in an uncompromising manner with those around them.
This clearly obvious rule affects the way we convey values but it is not so obvious when it comes to exemplifying with our professional experience for the people who form part of our work teams. The pace at which social changes occur, the ongoing development of technology and the emergence of new business models give rise to an increasingly complex, fragmented environment that in no way resembles the world our forefathers have built.
The oldest members of organisations often have a tendency to use the example of our past experience as a means of stimulus and motivation, telling of how we managed to overcome all the difficulties we faced in our day.
However, without realising this conveyance of example leads to major confusion among new generations. This is the case because the experience of many leaders is based on a world built around certainties, on solid values, on a fixed employment contract model, on a hierarchical organisation where a culture of effort would reap rewards.
From this perspective, the value of example has lost all meaning because society is undergoing radical changes.
” History for the new generations is being written on the basis of highly more complex situations that need to adapt to globalisation and a society forged around more liquid values.
In short, our teams are formed by new generations who are used to operating in uncertain environments, full of short-lived moments and imbued with constant change.
Often, when faced with novelties, humankind tends to be pessimistic about the future and become reminiscent, seeking answers in past experience in order to address the challenges posed by the present. The correct approach is entirely the opposite: leaders should view the future with enthusiasm and work closely with their teams to seek out new strategies and tools to allow them to raise their ability to adapt.
As a result, the value of example must adapt itself to the new reality and should not focus so much on “doing”, as events from the past that are able to provide answers to new situations arising are becoming few and far between; instead, the answer lies in the “being”.
If we actually want to lead people who are able to cope with these challenges, we should focus our efforts on conveying “being”, instead of focussing on the aesthetical aspect of our experience (what and how), and centre our attention on the everyday features of all generations: trust in individuals and their ability to face up to complexity. Both factors are key to building more positive, innovative and responsible organisations and, all in all, organisations with greater response capacity.
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