Chief Exemplar Officer

If you want your employees to dance the fandango, then you, too, should dance the fandango.

Subordinates fashion their behavior according to that of their leaders. Writing for Harvard Business ReviewRoger Martin argues that a good chief executive “models desired behavior,” and he singles out former Procter & Gamble CEO A.G. Lafley as a leader who came in and did it right. For example, “executives throughout P&G realized that if the CEO wasn’t too busy to do in-home consumer visits, neither were they.”

Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, says that, most important of all, “P&G employees came to appreciate that while Lafley cared about shareholder value, he saw it is an output of the things he aspired for P&G, not a singular and direct goal.” The shareholders who were to be rewarded, therefore, were those who were in for the long haul.

Peter Drucker often wrote of leading by example, and he also stressed the importance of long-term thinking. “Managing others is most effectively done by example rather than by preaching or policy,” he wrote in The Changing World of the Executive. “If the example is lacking, the most moving sermon and the wisest policy rarely work. ‘Do as I tell you and not as I do’ is the motto of the outsider, the consultant. Effective executives know that their associates will do as the boss does, and not necessarily as the boss says.”

Image credit: Norman Rockwell

[EXPAND More]For the short-term, share-price-driven mentality, Drucker had nothing but contempt. “It is fairly easy for shortsighted executives to show good profits—for a few years—by letting their companies’ plant run down, or by gutting reserves of raw material,” he wrote in his 1954 classic, The Practice of Management. Companies require better leadership than that. In Management Challenges for the 21st CenturyDrucker summed it up very simply: “We will have to learn how to balance short-term results—which is what the present emphasis on ‘shareholder value’ amounts to—with the long-range prosperity and survival of the enterprise.”

What sort of example does today’s CEO most urgently need to set?[/EXPAND]