Leading by Example is an Art Form

Do your actions match your words?


As an infantry captain during El Salvador’s long and arduous conflict with communist terrorist groups, Luis Castro has seen the power of leading by example. “It’s not just a catch phrase, it really is an art,” says Luis. “People are watching you…so you have to have a transparent life. You cannot just speak in conference rooms; you must live your life.”

Luis goes on to explain that when your actions do not match your teaching, it’s extraordinarily confusing for a follower or a member of your team. “The biggest gift you can give to someone is an example…there is nothing more confusing than to ask somebody to do something you are not doing,” says Luis.

In order to affirm those around you and build them up as leaders, you must live and lead in a way that you are asking them to do the same. Watch this video to learn more from Luis on leading by example.

Leaders have to set the example that they want to see in the follower. The best, probably one of the biggest gifts you can give to someone is an example.

If you have a group of people that you lead, just list them and see what kind of example can I give to Matt or Ginger. What kind of example? Because it's through example, you know, leadership is not taught. It's caught; it's caught by somebody actually seeing exactly what you want me to do.

Leaders¬—they have to understand this—that leaders they have to give their best to their people. The great leaders, they always give their best to their people, and giving their best means I'm growing consistently, so I can always have something fresh to give you tomorrow. Because if not, what we find is that people just keep telling you the same stories over and over and over again, the same story they've been telling for ten, twenty years. That tells you they stopped growing so many years ago. Leaders always have something fresh to share with you. Leaders always have something to contribute.

So I want that kind of leadership in front of me. I want somebody that creates tension between me and them so they can pull me up.

So leading by example is the only way to lead. I don't know any other way to lead. You have to be able to, because you have to have the moral authority to ask somebody to do something that you're willing to do.

Leading by example, that requires the leader to be conscious that you continuously have to grow. Mainly you're leading the same team every time, and you can grow learning from your own team.

It's so much potential, but to do that I have to be able to empower them, allow them to release the power that they already have. Being able to say, you know, "I never thought about that. Wow, that's a great deal. Listen to what he just said. Say it again." You see that way to allow your power to come into my meetings through your contributions. But what happens a lot of times is the very insecure leader doesn't want your want ideas because they can be better than their ideas.

So I will say lead by example is something that is not just like a catchphrase. It is really an art. People are watching you. People are watching you. So whatever you do, whatever you say, people are watching you. So you have to have a transparent life. You can't just speak in conference rooms, but then you lead your life differently. There's nothing more confusing to tell somebody to do something that you're not doing or ask somebody to do something that you're not doing. It's very confusing. But it's also very affirming you ask me to do something that I do. I understand. I got you. I got you. I'll follow you.

Luis Castro

Luis is a Military Academy Graduate. Luis served as an Infantry Captain in El Salvador’s Army during the long and violent conflict against communist terrorist groups.

During Luis’ years of combat, he received two medals for be...

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