It’s a term often used, but what does ‘modelling the way’ look like in the average workplace? One of Kouzes and Posner’s elements of effective leadership, it involves boundaries and frameworks, inspiration and leading by example. In this post, we’ll interpret how Kouzes and Posner’s practice translates into everyday working life…
Modelling the way is all about effective movement and action. When change is suggested, or when people are prompted to move towards goals, chaos could easily ensue; leaders ‘modelling the way’ break down the bigger picture into small, achievable goals. They remove obstacles and red tape that could hinder smooth transition. They implement boundaries and framework, so that people understand what is expected of them, behaviour that is/isn’t acceptable, and their individual role in the process. Leaders effectively signpost the way, directing and encouraging from the side-lines.
Demonstrating; setting examples
Leaders modelling the way encourage others to follow by setting an example. They breathe life into the shared vision, with optimism and positivity. They don’t become flustered when things go wrong.
Their actions align with shared values. Kouzes and Posner believe “values influence every aspect of our lives: our moral judgements, our responses to others, our commitments to personal and organisational goals.”
Leaders go first, demonstrating the attitude, competencies and enthusiasm they wish others to adopt – their actions can greatly influence those of others.
Anyone can talk a good talk, but they’re more likely to act if they see their leader doing. “When people see you doing what you say, then they have the evidence that you mean it. Otherwise, it’s just words. Your actions send the loudest signals about what other people should be doing.” (Kouzes and Posner)
Show relevant characteristics
It’s difficult to expect honesty from others if you don’t practise it yourself; you have to show respect if you want to earn it, for example.
Modelling the characteristics you need people to display will only work if you make them part of your values and everyday behaviour. Say Kouzes and Posner, “You have to model the way you way you want others to feel, think and act.”
Leaders spend time thinking of the characteristics they admire in other leaders and the lessons they extol, then consider how they can personally implement them during the process. This involves a great deal of self-awareness and personal audit, plugging any skills or knowledge gaps in order to lead people more effectively. According to Kouzes and Posner, the best leaders are the best learners.
Admit your mistakes, make them public, but demonstrate how they can be rectified or overturned. Placing your missteps in the open removes the fear of failure for others.
Consistency and communication
Treat others as you would like to be treated. Use language that’s positive and encouraging. To enable trust, these practices must be consistent. The predictability of your behaviour, attitude and values will build a framework for others – an environment where they can feel safe to express themselves, share ideas and opinions, and try new things.
Communication needs to be clear – there’s no room for confusion or ambiguity if modelling the way.
It’s clear that leaders need to carefully consider the words they use, the actions they take, and the values they align with; their influence on others as a result can be significant. Demonstrating positive traits, therefore, such as enthusiasm, optimism, resilience, trust and encouragement can prove the powerful fuel for the journey you need your people to take.
Emerge has years of experience in this area; working alongside organisations, the help they provide is invaluable as they support clients through their change. Contact 01329 820580 for more details, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to nokhoog_buchachon at freedigitalphotos.net for use of the image.