Seven characteristics of role model leadership

By Tim Strickler, chief financial officer of Communications Electronics

As I reflect on the 25 years of my career path and experiences of my colleagues, I’m struck by the influence leaders exert simply by way of their leadership example — or role modeling.

In my case, years of being around leaders and absorbing their example has influenced my style more than any mentoring sessions ever could. Part consciously, part subconsciously we form our internal sense of leadership norms and standards from the leaders we work with. That’s something all leaders should pause to consider: We’d better be setting a good example.

What follows is what I hope others see in our leadership example as we model it daily.

Competence. We have a healthy awareness of what we do and don’t know, and won’t accept a role beyond our competency. We understand the role and are willing to do all of it, not just the parts we like. Our confidence is authentic — grounded in the substance of effort and truth, not inflated hubristic pride. We are committed to fact-based decision making and understand that bringing thoughtful, honest clarity to challenges is more effective than control. We bring powerful optimism, but not by ignoring realities. We are intellectually curious, and know that the best solutions often lie in creativity and collaboration.

Wisdom. We reflect wisdom, which is neither intellect nor competency but more highly evolved and hard-earned through the trials and bumps of experience. Wisdom gives us the ability to display poise, and foster calmness in the face of chaos. It allows us to rise above it all with perspective, revealing the true picture and sense of trajectory of things. Because of wisdom, we know people are imperfect and the path is rarely linear. And wisdom guides us in seeking authentic power (influence) credibly earned daily and for the sake of doing good, not positional authority.

Service. We live by a standard of service by putting others first. We passionately seek to support purpose in goals transcending ourselves. We authentically care about people, and recognize that adding value to people is the success mattering most in the end. We are willing to share, teach and mentor — not for our glory but in service of others. We don’t cling to what we know for personal gain, but rather share in a spirit of abundance and service. We walk with patience, and extend grace where possible.

Integrity. We are honest with ourselves, even when the truth is disappointing or harsh. We are a truth seeker, not a defender of self. We cultivate intellectual honesty, and welcome thoughtful disagreement. We hold others accountable, and ourselves too. We are authentically ourselves — personally and professionally, easy and rough seas, and regardless of who we are talking to. And we know the importance of presentation optics, but don’t let it degrade into disingenuous spin.

Humility. We recognize the truth that we are all on a journey of self-growth, and we aim to steadily pursue the best possible version of ourselves while helping others with their journey. We care far more about what is right than who is right. We work hard to be self-aware and a good listener. We have a good sense of humor, including being able to laugh at ourselves, as we know humor is a universal joy. And we aim to respond to challenging situations with thoughtfulness, wisdom and self-control.

Courage. We are realistic, but keep fear in check. We operate from a spirit of abundance, not scarcity, which gives us depth and perspective to be courageous. When duty calls, we are willing to have the difficult conversations and make the tough decisions — even when it’s professionally risky for us. We are willing to stand against injustices and call out professional bullies and manipulators, and when necessary part ways with them.

Gratitude. We are perpetually thankful for blessings in our personal and professional lives, and savor the small joys during the journey. We have high standards for our team, but reasonable ones, and authentically feel and show appreciation for team successes. We recognize that all great accomplishments rest on something far greater than ourselves and are the result of team effort, and we never forget this. We show caring interest in our team members, and give back in encouragement and mentoring. And we always say thank you.

Why is role modeling leadership important? Because our leadership example has exponential power via shaping internal norms and expectations of all rising leaders in our organization who will later influence others with their leadership example. Because guiding and developing others is a fundamental responsibility of all leaders and role modeling is a powerful tool to do so. And because cultivating fine leadership is central to organizational success and crucial to our society at large.