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HR Toolkit: Idea of the Week

Walk the Walk: The #1 Rule for Real Leaders

Contributor: Alan Deutschman
Posted: 09/21/2009

Leadership is the art of transforming how people think, feel and act.

Though some experts make it seem complicated, it really has only two elements: what you say and how you act. And according to Alan Deutschman, most aspiring leaders focus too much on words and not nearly enough on setting an example.

Deutschman profiles a wide range of leaders (in business, education, the military and non-profits) who always walked the walk, especially when times got tough. In a skeptical world, that gave them more credibility than even the best possible speeches. Consider how:

  • Martin Luther King Jr. proved his commitment to nonviolence by letting a racist detractor beat him in front of a crowded auditorium.
  • Herb Kelleher and Colleen Barrett of Southwest Airlines showed they were serious about putting employees first by sticking to a no-layoffs policy, no matter what.
  • Sony founder Masuro Ibuka, who stressed originality over profits, waited for years to release a color television, until the Trinitron was a true breakthrough.

Deutschman also shows the devastating consequences of not walking the walk, even on seemingly minor matters. Consider how the CEOs of GM and Chrysler hurt their chances of a government bailout by flying their private jets to Washington.

The eye-opening examples in Walk the Walk will inspire leaders at all levels to rethink their priorities.

Contributor: Alan Deutschman
Posted: 09/21/2009