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Leadership lessons from an 11 year old

By Michael Cameron. On Jul 14, 2014.

Last week I was visiting with my daughter at the end of the day and as usual asked her what she had spent the day doing.  She responded that she had been at a girlfriends with another friend.  She went on to tell me that they had spent a the better part of the afternoon writing a story.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, I LOVE to write.  I expressed my excitement at the prospect of reading it and asked her to let me know when it was complete.  She went on to say that if her Band elective at school next year didn’t work out she was going to take the creative writing elective.  I told her that her and I could take some writing classes together after hours if she was interested regardless of what happened at school.  I told her that one of the things I plan to do is to write a book.  So of course she wanted to know what her father might be qualified to write about.  She was genuinely interested.  “What would you write about?”

I told her that I would likely write about some of my life experiences and some of the stories I had shared with her over the years and the lessons that I had learned from them.  This is where the beauty of being an 11 year old comes in.  If you have ever had an eleven year old daughter you know that they don’t often pass up an opportunity to poke fun at you.  So M goes into her best Daddy imitation punching her fist in front of her stomach, putting on her deepest voice and says “Work hard and you can achieve anything!”, “Go for the Gold!”.  I laughed heartily then it dawned on me that this was her impression of what my life represented and that this might be a subject matter I might write a book about.  Pretty freaking cool!!

The interesting thing is that I don’t know that I have ever said those exact words to her.  When I left her and reflected on what she had said it really hit home.  My baby girl has been watching all these years. It speaks to the fact that regardless of our words, people will make their impressions of you based on your actions.  This, for me, was a real reminder that we consistently need to live our values.  People will remember, not so much what you say, but more how you behave.  We need to make damn sure our behavior aligns with the values we want to represent.

One of my favourite words is the word “Congruent”.

Congruent:
agreeing; accordant; congruous.
exhibiting harmony of parts.

Your words and your behaviors MUST be congruent.  You cannot talk a certain set of values and live another.  You will be recognized for how you live not what you say.  My daughter summing up some of the values that I try to embody everyday really made me proud.

It reminded me that leaders need to demonstrate the values that they wish their team to embody.  This holds true for our children but it is also equally true for the people we lead or wish to lead in business.  No amount of words will ever convince people that you are something other than how you behave.  You may fool some for a time but ultimately it will catch up with you.  Your best path to success may come down to the simple truism of “Practice what you preach”.

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