August 25, 2009

News & Opinion: Leading by Example

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 8:35 PM – Filed under: Leadership & Strategy

Alan Deutschman's forthcoming book, Walk the Walk, begins by giving examples of historical leaders who not only talked a good talk, but who also practiced what they preached. The point is strong, and from there, Deutschman delves into business leaders who have followed the same practice, with incredible results.
In the case of both historical and business leaders, surprises occur - results happen that don't appear to make sense on the surface ( for example, MLK Jr.: not defending himself against a physical attack, and Amazon allowing customers to post negative reviews of products). These potential knee-jerk moments, when both parties could have reacted with more obvious choices, built their credibility, their ideas, and their leadership, to even greater heights.
Here's a good quote from Deutschman that sums up the overall message of the book:
"The most crucial role of a leader is establishing and instilling the one or two values that will be most important for an organization or a movement or a community. There are always a multitude of values that are well worth enshrining. The hard part is making the inevitable trade-offs between them: deciding this is more important than that. And the hardest part is showing that one particular thing, or two things, are the most important."

As Deutschman explores the topic further, he identifies many ways that business leaders have believed in what they've told others, and lived by those words, in order to completely revolutionize their companies. Filled with inspiring tales about profound actions, Walk the Walk proves over and over again that true leadership is best done when backed up by action, especially in times when those actions seem unlikely.