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Leading by Example – Powerful Leadership Story

Leadership by example story.

There is power in Leading by Example – Leadership Story

I heard it once said that a good example has twice the value of good advice. I came across a powerful leadership story that I would like to share and that highlights what leading by example is all about.

There is a legend that is told of a French Monastery known throughout Europe for the  exceptional leadership of a man known only as Brother Leo. Several monks took a pilgrimage to visit this extraordinary leader to learn from him. Starting out on the pilgrimage they almost immediately begin to argue over who should do certain chores.

On the third day of their journey they met another monk also going to the monastery; he joined them. This monk never bickered about doing chores and did them dutifully. And when the others would fight about which chores to do, he would simply volunteer to do them himself. On the last day of their journey, others began to follow his example and the bickering stopped.

When the monks reached the monastery they asked to see Brother Leo. The man who greeted them laughed. “But our brother is among you!” And he pointed to the fellow that had joined them.

Many seek positions in leadership to serve their own interests and not that of others. There are many self-serving reasons why a person may want to lead such as power, status, networking and money. But the best leaders lead because they care about people. And those are the types of leaders that lead like Brother Leo. They teach through their actions, not by words alone. They are servants, not commanders.

Question: Is this type of leadership rare in the world today? Do you even think that we need this type of leadership? I would love to hear what you have to say.

For more great leadership stories click here.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Great story, Mike! As President-Elect of sla.org, I work with many volunteers who selflessly give so much to keep the association thriving. And, most do it without fanfare!

  • Pat Jannausch

    Great story and I think this, by definition, IS leadership. The old approach of “do as I say, not as I do” no longer brings value to business or to society (if it ever did!). While leaders may not be able to spend all of their time literally among the people they serve, they must be the change they want to see (thank you Ghandi) – and to do that they must demonstrate what that change / behavior looks like.
    A friend of mine in Singapore once told me, “You can ride a horse to conquer, but you must dismount to lead!”

  • Thanks Deb and Pat for your comments. I love leaders who lead by doing and paving the way. I am grateful for such leaders in my life!

  • Love the story. Reminds me of politicians the world over. We must stop looking for someone else to lead us out of the mess the world is now in and start doing something ourselves however small.
    We’re changing the world one person at a time. The change starts from within.

  • Kassandra Pike

    This is a great article! This is something I try to personify to up-and-coming leaders, and even those who lead currently. The best kind of leadership is done unselfishly; we must care FIRST then the rest shall come naturally.

  • Leadership has always been by example which is what the story depicts. Leaders are role models that others follow.

  • Thanks all for your comments! If we don’t have leaders examples to follow, who do we follow?

  • I recently interviewed some high school Sterling Scholar students. When asked about leadership, one said, “A good leader is often someone who isn’t out in front, but quietly guiding from behind.” We need more 17 year-olds like her. Thanks for posting the story and provoking thoughtful dialog, Mike.

  • It is very rare in today’s day. This article describes my leading style. I often say “Actions speak louder than words” and give examples as to how in my written material dedicated to “Our Leaders In Development”

  • Good stuff Sheri. I am glad that there are leaders like you out there and that you are passing it on : )

  • Jill F

    You hear a lot of talk about servant leadership, but see few examples — I believe Jimmy Carter as a follower of the original JC is one. Through his good heart and leadership, democracy has been served through free elections where they were unknown, and homes have been built to house families who need shelter and peace.
    Leadership is about giving of yourself in the moment, without ego, with love of the eternal that exists within each of us.

  • I agree Jill. Great leaders love and have pure motives.

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  • Mark Macy

    Leadership by example! WOW! Simple and Powerful…thanks Mike for sharing and reminding us.

    • Your welcome Mark. Some times the most simple examples are the best examples!


  • Linda

    Michael, I wanted to let you know that I read your posts to inspire me. The company I work for has some serious problems at the senior leadership level that it now impacting middle managers who are trying to shield staff from the effects. In the process, many of us are feeling discouraged, disallusioned, and frustrated. However, your posts reminde me to perservere, to hold my head up, and know that I am doing a good job, even if our leadership is failing. Thank you. I use your posts to mentor others as well to do what is right, no matter what.

    • Linda, that is very kind of you to teach out to me and share that. It’s stories like that, that continue to inspire me to blog : ) I am glad that I can help. Hang in there. We are usually better because of the storms once they pass.


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