Our world craves men and women who will lead by example (a quick online search yielded 186,000 results including a recent article on Inc.com). You undoubtedly prefer those around you lead by example as well. Unfortunately people often let us down and we find ourselves on the hunt for a credible leader once again.
Where do you find a leader who will lead by example? Read the story below:
He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He spent months as a prisoner of war. He wasn’t sure if he would live to see the outside of the prison or die in the prison. But he never gave up hope.
A few years ago, my wife and I arrived at my parents’ house. My father proceeded to tell me about my grandfather Ben. I never had a chance to meet him but have certainly learned about leadership from him.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw his military commendations, especially his purple heart. Wow. Talk about someone willing to lead by example. It was his first assignment overseas. He literally landed in Europe and immediately joined the other American forces already there for the Battle of the Bulge.
Thankfully, he was a prisoner of war. Most of the units preceding him were killed. After being captured he spent approximately 4 months in prison before our family received their first correspondence from him in his German prison cell.
Later that night while talking to my father, my dad showed me Ben’s bible where he drew a calendar in the back so that he could X off each day in order to know what day it was. He also listed the multiple prison camps endured during his time in Germany. By the time he got out, he only weighed 97 pounds and had to be carried out on a stretcher as he was too weak to walk.
As I reflected back on his example, I was reminded of a few lessons in leadership we can all apply to our own lives:
1) Lead by Example
Ben modeled for me and our entire family how to lead. He served his country faithfully even when it meant going to the battle lines where life was very much so in question. He did what was necessary even if it meant personal sacrifice for others.
How do you lead when faced with an uncertain future or when faced with the possibility of sacrificing your desires for others? If you don’t lead by example, at best you are trusting others to find another example to follow. Why not model for others what you hope to see in them and what you know is right?Leave a legacy in the lives of others...even if you never meet them. Lead by example. Click To Tweet
2) Lead with Provision
Ben provided for his family not only by serving his country overseas. He provided by instilling a diligent work ethic in my father up until his death. Then he continued to provide after death by making sure he organized what my grandmother needed before his death.
If you study the impact of well known leaders, you will find consistent examples of men and women who serve others in the present and leave a legacy that extends into the future. Just this past week, we saw another example of this type of leadership when Dean Smith, one of the most respected basketball coaches in NCAA history, sent a $200 check to each of his basketball players after his death to show them his appreciation.
Did he have to do that? No. Did he enjoy any benefit from that provision while he lived? No. Did he do the right thing by not only providing some finances but also an example of servant leadership? Definitely. (I realize many of his previous players could care less about $200 but the gesture still left an impression)
How could you take it a step further and provide for someone you love at home or someone you lead at work for years to come? Perhaps you are an executive of a large corporation without a succession plan. Why haven’t you created one yet? Maybe you lead a non-profit or religious organization and you know you need to begin planning for the organization’s future. One of the best things you could do is to provide for your organization by planning for the future and helping them see the path ahead, what the succession plan will look like, and lead by example to model what’s expected for those you lead.Why not model for others what you hope to see in them and what you know is right? Click To Tweet
3) Lead by Faith
As Ben sat in prison writing X after X in his Bible so he could remember the days, he faithfully read and found hope in Scripture . He could have lived in fear and given up on life. Instead, during the hardest days of his life, he held on to the promises of God and His Word.
When you face the greatest challenges of your life, when your life is at stake, when all feels like it is about to collapse in on you, how will you respond? I’ll always remain grateful that Ben chose to lead by example by faithfully trusting in God’s provision.
At some level, if you lead anyone or any organization, you must have some level of faith as none of us can predict the future. Without the ability to predict the future, you can lead on your own ability or trust in the ability of a high power to provide for your needs as well as your organization’s.
Take a moment to consider how you can lead by example, with provision, and by faith this week. This week, the time between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, is an important time in the life of Christians worldwide. As we celebrate Easter, we have a chance to remember Jesus, who not only gave us the best example of someone who was able to lead by example, but also lived, died, and was resurrected to give us an eternal hope.
Leave a legacy in the lives of others…even if you never meet them. Lead by example.