Behave or recuse
I believe strongly that leaders have to model the behavior they want. Flawlessly, unrelentingly, tirelessly. As with all attempts to change behavior, consistency is key.
I’ve worked under leaders who railed about employee engagement, only the be on their phone during meetings. I’ve worked under a leader who slammed their fist on the table (literally) about the team giving more than 40-hour per week effort, only to disappear every Friday around 2pm. Every leader I’ve witnessed has spoken ad nauseam about the culture they wanted and the behavior they expected and the engagement they desired. But none has consistently lived and modeled what they so desired.
I’ve written before about my own struggle with “always being on” and I emphasize with how exhausting it can be to be always behaving. But, I maintain that this is a critical component of being a leader and simply part of the job. In my experience, it’s a lot easier to be consistent than to re-gain momentum after slipping up. This is true with diet and exercise as well, or so I’ve been told!
So, what’s a fallible leader to do? Recuse yourself when you can’t be on, apologize and acknowledge your slip up (“I wasn’t living our values in that moment and I apologize”). The critical thing is to address that it’s a mistake and that you’re committed to persistently setting a great example.