How CEOs Grow Leadership By Being a Role Model Every Day.

How CEOs Grow Leadership By Being a Role Model Every Day.

In the middle of my corporate leadership career, I was working for a global mobile telecommunications company. During that time, I had the great fortune to work very closely with the CEO of the Pacific Group of Companies. He was a remarkable individual because he had such an enormous role and yet was able to focus on some of the small important things very well.

I learned a lot about being a leader from him. He would spend about two weeks of every month travelling internationally and the other two weeks of the month he would be in the offices in Sydney. And in that two weeks, he was a great role model and advocate for leadership simply by how he showed up.

Let me give you a couple of examples. He was never late to a meeting. He was always on time. Imagine, this is the person with the most extensive portfolio in the entire organisation. If he can be on time to meetings, there is no excuse for others not to be. He did not need to say anything about the poor meeting culture. He did not have to lay down expectations. He simply role modelled what he wanted to see in other leaders and team members across the entire organisation.

The second thing is he was just wonderfully good at remembering people’s names.

If he hadn’t seen someone for a long time, or if he had only met them once, he was absolutely remarkable at remembering people’s names. I really don’t know what the trick was to it, but I did see the impact that it had on those individuals that the CEO, the busiest, most important individual in the organisation in terms of their realm of responsibility, would take the time to remember someone’s name and to use it the next time he was in the lift with them or sat in a meeting with them. It was really impressive.

“Good leaders are role models at work. Great leaders are role models in life.”

Adam Grant

I learned a lot from him about the kind of leader I would like to be.

We all have stories like these, or memories of people that we have worked with or observed, who do particular things really well and we would like to emulate.

Then of course we have stories and experiences of people that we really do not want to emulate. You know who I am talking about!

What I really want to highlight is the potentially profound impact of how you show up as a leader every day can be. You are role modelling.

When I work with my CEOs and leaders, I talk to them about the three things that every day they should be contributing to for the development of the tribe of leaders around them.

They need to consistently mentor, model, and coach.

In my experience, it can be easy to forget that you are role modelling every day, whether you realise it or not. You need to ensure you are role modelling leadership in a way that you want your upcoming, your emerging, even your experienced leaders to look to and to aspire to and to be inspired by. You need to remember that what you think and feel shows up in what you say and do.

So what are you thinking and feeling on a daily basis?

What are you role modelling?

If your people are not growing into the leaders you hope for, how might you be contributing to this?

What we think and what we feel shows up in what we say and what we do

You have probably come across the adage, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”

One of your key responsibilities is to show your leaders and your future leaders what leadership looks like. How it thinks, how it acts, behaves, decides, and reacts. On good days, on great days, and on not-so-good days as well

It can be little day-to-day things like:

⮞ Saying thank you.
⮞ Being prepared for meetings.
⮞ Responding to emails in a timely fashion.
⮞ Saying good morning.
⮞ Getting to meetings on time.
⮞ Having your regular one-on-ones with your people.
⮞ Being organised rather than busy,
⮞ And delivering on deadlines and promises.


It can also be and should be the big things like:

⮞ Championing for your people.
⮞ Acknowledging effort and contribution.
⮞ Providing timely, useful feedback that provides stretch and growth opportunities to your people.
⮞ Challenging your people to step up their initiative and accountability.
⮞ Developing ongoing communication, connection, and trust across your team, your department, and your organisation.
⮞ Showing how to build collaboration, partnership, and allyship.
⮞ Developing and sharing a clear vision for the future.
⮞ Challenging your own beliefs and perspectives.
⮞ Being prepared to change a decision when new relevant information comes in.
⮞ And being consistently visible in all the workspaces in the office, online, and wherever else work happens.


What is your opportunity to show leadership, to grow leadership, through your role modelling every day?

I’d love to know your thoughts.

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