Why Leaders Need To Lead By Example?

Pompeia was the wife of the great Julius Caesar. In 62 BC she hosted the festival of the Bona Dea (“good goddess”),  which no man was permitted to attend. However a young patrician named Publius Clodius Pulcher managed to gain admittance disguised as a woman, apparently for the purpose of seducing Pompeia. He was caught and prosecuted for sacrilege. Caesar gave no evidence against Clodius at his trial, and he was acquitted. Nevertheless, Caesar divorced Pompeia, saying that “my wife ought not even to be under suspicion.” This gave rise to a proverb, sometimes expressed: “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.”

Caesar’s Wife Must Be Above Suspicion

Whether this was morally right or not, we shall not argue about.

However, I think in the context of leaders and leadership – this proverb is very apt.

Leaders set the tone for behaviours in the organization. Whether they like it or not, leaders are always in the spotlight – and are always being watched by their constituents. Being watched for cues on behaviours, for alignment to stated organization values, and yes, for alignment on their own audio and video. Does what the leader says and does match?

The most important asset for any leader is his or her credibility. The importance of credibility for a leader cannot be overstated. As Jim Kouzes & Barry Posner state in their book, The Leadership Challenge, “If you don’t believe the messenger, you won’t believe the message.” Every act where a leader falls short in the eyes of his or her constituents is a debit from his/her account of credibility with the team. And it is not just about the big ticket items. It can be about daily behaviours also:

  • Do you habitually come late to office?
  • Do you not respond back promptly when expected?
  • Do you leave early from office habitually, citing an “important meeting?”
  • Do you come in late habitually citing “early morning concalls?”
  • Do you habitually prioritise phone calls over somebody sitting in front of you?
  • Do you habitually crib about the “good old days?”
  • Do you wait to be asked to lead?
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You get the idea….. Can you share other such behaviours that leaders need to be wary of?

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