“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.” ~ Albert Einstein
July 2017, was my first month as President of my Toastmasters club WrocLove Speakers. It had already been few weeks for me as President and one thing I had to do was to give President Opening at the beginning of every meeting. Basically a 2 min speech about toastmasters, about our club etc.
Every week, I would work on my short speech with the goal to set the tone of the meeting. Most often I ended up delivering a short personal story about my success in toastmasters or what it means for me to be in toastmasters, to motivate and inspire everyone present. I thought I was doing an amazing job.
Than one day I heard, “Zain your openings are terrible” said a fellow toastmaster, a friend and a mentor, Marek Gulanowski (who is widely recognized as the best President, club ever had).
“You always talk about yourself, you never talk about others. You are leading by your examples, when you should be leading by examples of others”
I was angry and refused to agree with his statement. My inflated ego couldn’t digest this honest piece of feedback. Few more weeks passed and as hard as I tried to forget Marek’s words, they kept ringing in the back of my ear. And with time, came the realization. He was right.
You see, as speaker you will hear quite often that telling personal stories is a great way to connect with your audience, they are instrumental in inspiring people. The problem is, not all personal stories work in that way. It is fine to tell a story of your success here and there, but to keep doing it repeatedly is just simply annoying. What really helps to connect, are stories of our failures, our shortcomings etc. (but this is a topic for another post).
The thing is, in this scenario, I was anyway one of the most active member of the club. What I was doing both as a member and as President was fully visible to all members. It did inspire them to work on their skills and on the club development, in the same way that I did. But when on top of that I sang the song of my own successes, it ruined the positive effect of my actions and diminished my leadership credibility.
Once I realized this, even though it was hard to not talk about myself, I started to talk about our member’s successes. Successes even as small as delivering a speech without ever looking at the floor for the first time.
This had a twofold affect. First, I saw a huge smile and shine on the faces of those members who I acknowledged for their success and second, I felt better myself, because seeing those smiles and their motivation was my original goal anyway and I achieved it.
There are two lessons I learned.
First is summed up well by this quote.
“What you are, speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Leading by example is entirely about your action, you don’t have to emphasis them further by speaking about them constantly.
Second. Recognizing others from your team, makes them the star and they return it by shining even brighter than before.
So. do you lead by example OR you let examples of others lead??