I remember a Michael Hyatt post a while back that told the story of 46 penguins at the San Francisco Zoo and how they were impacted by six new penguins from Ohio. I’m not sure the post is still there, but it was basically about how the six new penguins “influenced” the other 46 by doing nothing but behaving differently.
They didn’t stand up in front of the room and “cast vision.” They didn’t go around and talk to everyone, attempting to sway them to a new way of thinking or a new method of doing something. They didn’t even write a new policy and e-mail it to everyone to change the group’s behavior.
They merely started behaving in a new way. The others saw it and eventually began to change their behavior. In fact eventually, the whole group’s behavior was fundamentally changed.
This story illustrates one of the most significant things I’ve come to understand about leadership. John Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence.” I couldn’t agree more. But, “how” does an effective leader influence the team? Do they write up a bunch of policies, stand up in the front of the room and tell everyone what they must do, or conduct a series of one-on-one meetings with everyone on the team?
While these are all important ways in which to get the point across and get people bought into a new decision or policy change, they are not the most important. An effective leader must actually “do” what they are asking of others. They must consistently behave in the new way.
In other words, as leaders, we must understand it’s not what we “say” that influences others. It’s what we do.