A few years back I joined a program that paired mentors with ‘at risk’ youth. It was a wonderful experience in many ways and I learned quite a bit.

As part of the program all mentors went through a 6 hour orientation designed to prepare us for our experience with kids who are often angry, scared, and skeptical that anyone truly cares about them.

One of the most amazing things I learned both in the training and in my experience with my ‘mentee’ was that kids don’t listen (surprise) as much as they observe. They evaluate people not through what they say, but what they do. The first and most powerful thing that any mentor can do is to show up, be present, and act in a caring way. And I thought that my experience and advice was my main value!

This truth extends to all of us, and stays with us into adulthood. We don’t so much listen to our leaders as watch them. We see if they ‘walk the talk’. When we see hypocrisy we immediately tune out anything that person has to say.

If you want to lead others, or are already in a position of leadership, think about how you ARE in your position. Your words have only a fraction of the power of your actions.

If you want to create a culture of openness and honesty: Be open and honest
If you want people to be generous with their time: Be generous with yours
If you want hard work: Work hard
If you want loyalty: Be loyal
If you want people to be kind to customers or each other: Be kind to them

Be on the lookout for hypocrisy in yourself and your organization. Nothing diminishes a culture more than leaders who say they want one thing and then act in another way. How many times have you heard a leader encourage openness…only to then restrict information to a ‘select few’?

How can you lead by example? What can you DO instead of SAY? Your power lies in who you ARE…

-KC Hildreth