Walk The Walk

“Our greatest strength is our people,” the CEO boldly proclaims at an all-company meeting. “We treat each other with respect and our culture enables creativity.”

These encouraging sound bites are rendered impotent, however, when that same CEO barks orders and scolds her staff in that afternoon’s leadership meeting.

Most leaders know what to say. They know how to deliver hyperbole about being positive and supportive, results-focused and detail-oriented, environmentally sensitive and community-focused. These words are so easy to speak and often so difficult to embody.

One of the biggest challenges in business today is the hypocrisy of leadership. Charismatic leaders spout well-rehearsed catch phrases, yet they fail to model the behavior. We’ve seen the tragic tale play out hundreds of times in politics, business, and even nonprofit organizations.

“Do as I say, not as I do.” Problem is, charm and rah-rah are no substitute for actual performance.

As you work to grow your own business, community, and family, modeling the behavior you profess is one of the most important steps you can take to reach your desired outcome. The gap between what you say and what you do can undermine your effort faster than the new Corvette Stingray accelerates from 0-60.

That gap is poisonous to your culture and undermines your integrity. People are drawn to authenticity and repulsed by anything disingenuous.

In today’s challenging times, we need leaders whose actions speak louder than their words. Leaders who model the behavior they demand, rather than thinking their stated demands apply only to others. We need leaders who march into battle ahead of their troops and show the team what to do instead of merely preaching from afar.

The old fable of the tortoise and the hare instructed us on the virtue of being patient, deliberate and consistent. As an investor in start-up companies, I see a new fable playing out with stunning regularity: The fancy fast-talkers flame out fast. It’s the ones who may have less zip up front but actually do the things they ask of others who end up snagging the brass ring. Should we call our new fable “The Talker and the Doer”?

Growing up with scandal and conflict, we all possess a highly developed BS detector. Those around you can spot your hypocrisy from a mile away. Take a close look at your own integrity gap and shrink it with the urgency of extracting a tumor. You’ll inspire action and remove the friction that might be holding you and your organization back.

It’s time to model what you say. It’s time to do what you profess. It’s time to show instead of tell. It’s time to walk the walk.