A lot of times managers and executives tell their employees how they should act and behave. They explain what their expectations are for the employees and they lay out ground rules for working for the company. But a lot of times those same leaders are not exhibiting those behaviors themselves.
There is a fascinating story about Gandhi that can really teach us something about leadership. The story is about a woman whose son was addicted to sugar. No matter what she did she could not fix this addiction in her son. Doctors, friends and relatives all told the young boy to stop eating sugar because it is not good for him, but he wouldn’t listen. Finally the mother decided to take her son to see Gandhi to see if the son would listen to this well respected, wise and pious man.
The waited in line to meet Gandhi for a very long time and when they finally got to him the mother explained that her son was addicted to sugar. She told Gandhi her son would not listen to anyone telling him not to eat sugar, but surely he will listen to you. Gandhi told the woman to come back in two weeks and he would help them. The woman was confused, but did what he said.
Two weeks later the mother and son returned to Gandhi. The mother explained to Gandhi that they had been there two weeks before and that her son is still addicted to sugar. Gandhi looked at the boy and said, “Son, you should stop eating sugar”. The mother was again confused and asked Gandhi why they had to wait two weeks when that was all he was going to say. Gandhi replied, “Two weeks ago I myself was addicted to sugar. How can I tell somebody else to stop doing something, when I am doing that same thing?”
We should use this as an example of how to lead. How can we ask others to behave in a certain way when we ourselves are not behaving that way. We need to first start with ourselves and see what happens.
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My new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley, March 2017) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work. Subscribe to the newsletter here.