Model The Way

Clarify your values and lead by example

Picture this: A 15-year-old, newly promoted to the position of captain in a uniform group. His first task? To lead a team of juniors into a national level camp craft competition. Excited to take on the world, he pushed the team through months of tough trainings, imagining the moment of victory — him holding the champion’s trophy and giving a victory speech.

A possible ending? Not quite.

The demanding trainings saw team members withdrawing their participation. When probed by the officer, all, except one who was down with chicken pox, had the same reply. They withdrew because of me—that 15-year-old newly promoted captain.

Was it a failed attempt at leadership? It might seem so, but it turned out to be the most valuable leadership lesson I ever learnt. It did not matter that I was a senior or captain because I was not practicing the most fundamental idea of leadership, which is to lead by example. Because of that, my members did not accept me as their leader, and my team fell apart.

This simple lesson of leading by example, or lack of, sparked a powerful leadership learning moment for the young me.

Leadership gurus James Kouzes and Barry Posner discovered that leading by example is key to being an effective leader. They coined the term “Model the Way” which is one of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership of The Leadership Challenge®*. Model The Way is first of the five practices, explained in the two following commitment statements:

• Clarify values by finding your voice and affirming shared ideals.
• Set the example by aligning actions with shared values.

To Model The Way, we first need to clarify our values. We need to decide what is important to us, before we know what kind of example we want to set. It is integral to clarify our values because our values are what guide our choices and actions.

“To Model The Way, we first need to clarify our values. We need to decide what is important to us, before we know what kind of example we want to set.”

Starting this practice is not difficult. One 10–15 minute activity teachers can do with students in perhaps civics education or english classes is the Values Sort. Give a list of up to 30 values (Respect, Integrity, Affluence, Friends, Competition, etc.) to students and have them select those that matter to them most. Then, get them to eliminate it down to their top five values. For primary school students, you might want to have a list of 15 values, and have them narrow it to three values.

It will likely be hard to narrow it down because many of the values are good; but the key is to select what is most important to them. After that, get them to align actions with their values by writing down one practical action point for each value. To wrap up, students can share answers with their partner, and the teacher can share his or hers with the class. Remind them and yourself to DWYSYWD: Do What You Say You Will Do.

As mentioned in the 21st Century Competencies from the Ministry of Education (MOE) for nurturing the younger generation, knowledge and skills must be underpinned by values. Values define a person’s character, and it shapes the beliefs, attitude and actions of the person. With an emphasis on values in our education system, we can build a generation of exemplary leaders who have both competency and character. What will we value in 2013, and how will we Model The Way in our classrooms, home and community?

Article by Shawn Khoong
The Leadership Challenge® (TLC) is a leadership development programme created by bestselling authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner. This programme is backed by 30 years of original research and data from over three million leaders. It is a comprehensive suite of products, programmes and services proven to cultivate and liberate the leadership potential in every person, at every level, in any organisation. Halogen conducts TLC workshops for MOE educators at a special price. 
If you have attended TLC, you can also up your leadership a notch by joining the Student Leadership Challenge® Certified Facilitator’s Training (SLCCFT) which will certify you as a student trainer for the student edition of the programme. Halogen also conducts the above mentioned Values Sort activity in our Everyday Leadership core module, Establishing Core Values.
For enquiries, please contact Kenneth at [email protected] or +65 6509 6700.

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