It is for this reason that I believe we see many people with leadership titles, but see very few true leaders. The responsibility and burden of leading by example – all of the time – is more than most potential and aspiring leaders have the capability of achieving. This doesn’t mean that our leaders must be puritans, righteous or perfect. But is does mean that whatever values a business, organisation or group sets for itself, the leader should demonstrate consistent behaviours that fit within those values.
Perhaps this is why our children see sporting stars as leaders and role models over our real leaders – the politicians and law makers within our countries. When children see sports team play, they see a group of men or women working hard together to achieve a common result. They are penalised for illegal play, they reach for success through hard work and dedication, and they focus their effort on attaining a goal. If they achieve that goal, children see a team celebrating their success together. If they lose, they see their team regroup the next year to again try and achieve that goal. These behaviours are what we expect of a good team – so why wouldn’t sportspeople be seen as role-models?
Compare that to the example that our children see from politicians.
Goals and goalposts that seem to move, promises explicitly stated that are ignored and forgotten, and ‘players’ on the same team discussing each other in negative terms in public. The goal that is being achieved appears to be more self-serving than for the team, and poor behaviour is not penalised, but often seems to be ignored or worse, rewarded.
I know there are a lot of examples on both sides of the sporting and political fence that I have glossed over – illegal gambling, use of performance enhancing drugs and match fixing to name a few. But when I see the phrase ‘Be the change that I want to see in the world’, I can’t help but think that more leaders would be successful by adopting some of the core values of a sporting team.