A couple of months ago President Obama nominated Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. to serve as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is 59 years old and will be only the second Marine to hold the highest U.S. military leadership post.
He will face a couple of huge challenges. He will need to oversee the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2016 and conduct a successful air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Dunford has a lot of experience as he commanded the Marine regiment that led the 2003invasion of Iraq.
Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. leads by example. Gen. George Patton said, “Do everything you ask of those you command.” Dunford gained the respect of all of his fellow Marines because at 59, he still participates in the demanding physical fitness test as corps commandant. His fellow Marines say, “He’s the epitome of a Marine leader.”
We lead and learn by example. Mick Jagger’s ex-wife Jerry Hall told a London newspaper that their four children may have avoided the pitfalls of alcohol and drug abuse because of what they witnessed growing up. Hall said, “They spent their life looking at Keith Richards passed out on the couch. That could be it.” Sometimes a bad example produces a good result.
Leadership is not telling people what to do, but doing it. Jesus warned people about the Pharisees. He said they know how to talk, but they don’t walk like they talk. He said, “What they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds for they say things and do not do them” (Matthew 23:3).
Dr. Jim Vickrey, former President of Montevallo University, finished out his educational career teaching Speech at Troy University. In a class on Communication, he taught and learned a great leadership principle. He had each student stand up and verbally communicate directions to get to their apartment or dorm room. Each student stood up and attempted to give specific, clear, concise directions.
The last young man who stood up was silent for a moment and then looked around the class and said, “Come follow me and let me show you where I live.” Those were the best directions. The boy got an “A” in the class.
When Jesus called people to be His disciples, He didn’t describe for them a lot of what they were going to be doing. He didn’t discuss benefits or have those early fishermen meet with the HR department. They weren’t people that most companies would have gone after. But Jesus didn’t vet His team by what they had been – but by what He saw they could be! Jesus simply said, “Follow me.” He set the example. He didn’t ask them to do anything that He was not already doing.
I like the Army’s motto: “Follow me.” That is leadership.
Leadership is about leading – not talking. Leadership is inviting people to follow where you are going. Failing to lead by example can create a false chasm between the leader and people. The result is that you don’t know if people are chasing you or following you! (Tweet this)