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Things to Think About - Who you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear a word you’re saying

By Pepper de Callier

Who you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear a word you’re saying.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I spend a great deal of time talking to leaders about things like employee engagement and corporate culture and, while there are many things that can be done to impact culture and engagement, nothing—I repeat, nothing—is as powerful as a leader’s personal example.  The 20th century was a wonderful classroom for leadership development, especially for what it taught us not to do.  One of the lessons was not to blindly follow leaders who would say one thing and then turnaround and do something that was in direct contradiction to what they had said.  They would ask their employees to make a sacrifice, say, cut back on expenses for the good of the company.  Then, they would travel first class, stay in 5-star hotels, have a chauffeur, and eat in only the best restaurants.  The sacrifice did not apply to them.  The result of behavior like this is the total loss of personal credibility on the part of the leader, which leads to an erosion of desire to sacrifice anything on the part of the employee. In extreme cases, it even encourages the cover-up of non-compliant behavior on the part of the employees.

The Czechs have a wonderful saying for this behavioral disconnect: “He preaches water, but drinks wine.” 

This is why the issue of a leader’s example is so crucial to the development of corporate culture, especially one in which the goal is to create a nurturing environment of transparency and high levels of employee engagement. The same holds true for personal relationships.

How would those who know you describe your example—which are you drinking, water or wine?

Till next time…

About the Author: Pepper de Callier is one of the most respected senior executive coaches and authorities on leadership in Europe. Learn more about him at     

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