Lead by example: to lead change, leaders must change from within!

Lead by example: to lead change, leaders must change from within!

We’ve all heard the phrase: “Lead by example.” In battle, the troops must see the Army Officer in front of them, leading them boldly towards their objective. The leader exemplifies courage, selfless service, and inspires trust in his followers.

Example-setting is the only way a leader will get his followers to buy into his plan. Albert Schweitzer said: “Example isn’t the main thing in leadership – it is the only thing.”

Most people are visual learners, not verbal learners. Good communication makes the vision clear, and good modeling makes it come alive.

A leader must want his followers to model the desired behavior. How do you do that? How, as a leader, do you get your followers to exhibit the you want to see? The answer is simple: be a leader, not a naysayer. Leaders must lead themselves first.

To do this a leader, a manager, supervisor, team leader – whoever aspires to lead – must have self-awareness. They must know their weaknesses and their capabilities before barking out orders. But building awareness about one’s habits of thought, emotions, hopes, and behavior is a task. Leaders must know what makes them tick, their beliefs, their priorities, their aspirations, values and fears (Boaz and Fox, 2014)

Most leaders want status, but not the responsibility. Are they at that level to get more pay and more status, or to get themselves and others to buy into the organization’s mission, vision and goals?

We have a biblical example of this in Kings II Chapters 22 through 23. King Josiah ruled Judea for 31 years. When he was 18 years old, he was in the midst of a restoration project of the temple of God, where a scroll of the book of the law was found by the high priest and was given to the royal secretary to be read to the King Josiah. When the king heard the words of the law, he immediately tore his robe. In the Old Testament, this was a sign of repentance, remorse, and despair. Josiah was known as a very righteous king, yet through the word of God he repented and became aware of his own sins towards God. Here you see the how the king Josiah (leader) made a change within himself (self-awareness). His internal reform brought about the internal reform of his people, which led to the restoration of God‘s covenant throughout Judea.

How inner awareness affects the leader’s outer change

People do as they see, so the leaders’ actions speak louder than words. As mentioned previously, example isn’t the main thing – it is the only thing. Organizations that want to implement new strategies create new policies and procedures. But the new processes will fall short if the leader does not exemplify the desired change. In their research, Boaz and Fox indicate that new strategies often fall short because of a failure to inspire the “underlying mindsets and capabilities of the people who will execute [them].”

Research indicates that if the leader doesn’t role model change and maintains the status quo, the people on the ground will maintain that same motivation. (Boaz and Fox, 2014). In my Biblical example, the people saw their King change from within. All of his actions illuminated his internal change, and this motivated the people to also change and move toward transformation.

Learning to lead means cultivating awareness of self. You must be aware of your inner thoughts, character and the values that you hold firm to, regardless of the situation. Selfawareness requires you to know what makes you tick – your inner desires, your strengths and weaknesses, the interests you had as a child, and what motivates and inspires you as an adult. But in this day and age, having inner awareness of one’s self is not easy. Many voices out there harbor confusion, deception, fear, but a few voices have vision and purpose. Nevertheless, to lead others, one must lead one’s own self.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ―Aristotle

If you model the behavior you want everyone in your organization to exhibit, then change will happen without resistance. In a research study, seasoned executives with 15 or more years of experience were asked to name the critical leadership competency for successful change efforts. The answers were communication, collaboration and commitment.

In the area of communication, the leaders explained that followers must know the “what” and the “why” of the change and understand how these align with the organization’s values. In the area of collaboration, successful leaders encourage people to work together across boundaries with other teams or departments to achieve a common goal. In the area of commitment, leaders aligned their own beliefs and behaviors to support change.

The successful leaders also had to step out of their comfort zone and not appear to be resistant or inflexible. The successful leaders embraced change by devoting time and effort to it. Those who were resistant to and negative about change were unsuccessful in implementing change in their organizations (Center for Creative Leadership, 2020).
The bottom line is that people model the behavior of their leaders. Followers (employees, team) will do what they see their leader do. General Colin Powell said it best: “You can issue all the memos and give all the motivational speeches you want, but if the rest of the people in your organization don’t see you putting forth your very best effort every single day, they won’t either.” Be an example of the change you want to see.

Derrick Darden,

PhD Entrepreneur Apex,

partner Entrepreneur Coach

Blogsites: dcdardentalks.com & tripledfoundation.com

Related Posts

Leaders need to lead the way       (A Citizen’s Letter in a Time of Crisis)

Leaders need to lead the way (A Citizen’s Letter in a Time of Crisis)

I have been disappointed for some time from what I’ve read, watched in the media and heard through the chatter amongst peers as this crisis unfolds. I have seen everything from calm to stupid. After work on Wednesday I decided to stop by the grocery store and get a few things for the weekend; such as hand wipes, some Lysol spray and maybe some fruit and other little knickknacks. However, when I arrived at the grocery store and began shopping for my few items I notice to my surprise that the shelves were empty, of meats, of fruits, seafood and the other paper products that I was seeking for.  I overheard a shopper asked one the store personnel about toilet paper, I thought for a minute in a humorous way that was strange. So I decided to go to the aisle to help the shopper out finding toilet paper. I didn’t really need any toilet paper but to my astonishment to was gone. The fully stocked shelves of paper products including toilet paper were gone.   Go figure!!!  No one sensible enough to believe that just a few weeks ago before this surge of panic hit the airwaves people would be fighting over toilet paper and paper products, so reality began unfolding.  Then capture this moment in your imagination that other people with families were walking up and down the food aisles in a daze wondering like me where all the paper products, fruit and meats disappear to.  I could see the look in the people eyes and in their expressions of disbelief; I missed out and thought in mind of when the shelves will be stocked again.  The sad part of this experience is that I didn’t need food for the month or for the week. All I needed was a few things. However, looking at some of the families in disbelief of what they were witnessing walking up and down the food isles trying to find that needed food item perhaps dinner for that night; was sad to observe.

I guess people went stir crazy, when they saw that our Government at all levels didn’t have a handle on what was going on, held and back vital information to the people. This caused skepticism, cynicism and uncertainty amongst the general public. This causes psychological negative behaviors that were displayed such as fear, panic and stress.   Those who took matters into their own hands panic and began buying in large quantities of essential items.   Therefore, negative display of behaviors manifests themselves by shoppers raiding the supermarket stores shelves during the worst time in this world’s history.  These were very selfish acts committed against our fellow men.    

Another way of looking at the committed selfishness is the disruption on the supply chain just out of fear.  Disruption in an already fragile supply chain, according to Steve Culp of Forbes magazine can reduce the share pricing as much as 7% of affected companies, and cause slowdowns in the market place in response to the disruption. This previous run on the supermarkets sent a jolt in the supply chain which was behavior driven.  This false negative can cause bottlenecks within those effected companies.

From an economic scale the disruptive behavior disturbed an already complex and fragile supply chain.  This behavior sent false negatives in the market place and distorted the prices of the commodity the law of supply and demand was not implemented.  We live in free market system, the law of supply and demand says that when the price of a commodity will net demand goes up in the supply of that commodity is down in the price is higher. On the flipside when the demand for those commodities is down in the price or supply that entire commodity is up in the price is lower. The distortion comes in when the price of a commodity doesn’t follow the law of supply and demand.

While people made a run on the supermarkets just hoard it for them instead of buying what they need for right now. Instead people had no regard for others such as those families that were in shock and unable to find the flexibility of buying those needed items for that day or the week.  People were out for self, these actions were based out of fear driven behaviors and this selfish acts happen across the nation.  People were literally fighting for these essential commodities.  This is a defining moment not only for leaders in organizations in the community but also leaders in Washington DC. I will save the politics for later but right now we have an elephant in the room and we got to get it out.

So I appeal to leaders at all levels, first must display calmness and control especially at the local levels and restore trust in the public.  Leaders must display behaviors free from agitation, disorientation and anger, instead show strong tranquility free from anxiety and fear.  As John Maxwell would say , “leaders must not lead and moan at the same time.”  When people see that their leaders display behaviors of strength, the people with begin to trust and take on these transmittable  behaviors.  People are influenced by what they see not what they are told. To quote John Maxwell leadership is influence nothing more and nothing less.   

James Allen, said “the more tranquil a man becomes, the greater it is his success, he’s a influence , his powers for good, calmness of mine is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.“

This past few weeks were crazy there were no, this was so wherever totally took everybody by surprise, preparedness wasn’t our strong point and calmness was not present amongst the chaos.  Therefore it triggered the behavior of total selfishness within individuals that did not care for their fellow man.

What happens in the United States was a trust problem which displays negative behavioral problems.  Leaders need to,

  1. Restore the trust of the people. Right now their don’t trust the government to make the right decision and have a handle on this epidemic.
  2. Show people that their leaders are in control of their of the issues surrounding this epidemic and a willingness to share information regardless if it’s good or bad. People want to know about the progress of the virus.
  3. Restore the people’s trust back in the government as leading the way in sharing information, keep them up to date on the  cure and  be upfront and  sensible about the true picture of the looming crisis.  

The solution is to control the chaos by the display of confidence and strength.  The restoration of trust of the public.  A control on issuing the essential items and a willingness to share information at State and Local levels  on how to obtain essential items need to get through this crisis.  This is the bottom-line of Mark Weitzman, paper of “Price distortion and shortage deformation, or what happened to the Soap” written in 1991.

So my story doesn’t end there I’m still waiting for the abundance of supplies to fill the shelves to me that will take another week or so while these control measures are being implemented. Not saying that this will eradicate the shortage problem but at least the shelves won’t be as bare as I saw them a few weeks ago. What are your thoughts and comments on this matter? Am I far off?


Related Posts

Habits can contribute to your success or misery

Habits can contribute to your success or misery

“Why aren’t people successful in life? I can tell you it’s because of habitual habits that diminish their probability of sustainable success. Depending on what they are, our habits will either make us or break us. We become what we repeatedly do.” ―Sean Covey

The dictionary points out that a habit is a routine of behavior; it’s a fixed way of thinking more or less about something. So if I have a habit of running every morning, exercising, and eating healthy meals every day to keep my body and mind healthy and sharp, then those are good habits. On the other hand, if I smoke cigarettes or vape everyday, which causes harm and many diseases to my body and diminishes my health, then smoking is a bad habit.

I have a saying that “it’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not that holds you back.” We have total control over our destiny, yet don’t pursue it. The start of a habit is what you digest in your mind every minute of the day. Those thoughts, dreams, or visions become part of your subconscious that forms these habits. “We become what we think about” day in and day out. Your mind is the sum total of the habits and thoughts that get into your subconscious. Those thoughts are put into actions, and those actions became habits. Sounds simple, yet why aren’t people successful in life?

John Dryden says, “We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”

“If you don’t like the results you see every day, then change it. Your habits will determine your future.” – Jack Canfield

So, if you like where you are going, then stay on the path. If not, then change your direction. I have three suggestions.

  1. Read books that will inspire you, that will motivate you, and that will give you purpose. For example, read the Bible (chapters in Proverbs and/or the book Psalm). Read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and/or The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John C. Maxwell. Digest these materials day and night. We must be intentional about pouring into your subconscious the pure, the powerful, and the purposeful. Lastly, listen to successful people and study how they form successful habits.
  • Surround yourself with successful people. There’s a saying, “You are the average of the five people you associate with.” If you hang around highly motivated and successful people, then it will rub off on you. “Remember, your association determines your destination.” – Myles Monroe.


  • If you are unable to change your habits, then join a men’s or women’s group that not only uplift you but will hold you accountable.

Success comes with deliberate actions and behaviors. These actions and behaviors form habits and routines. When we fail, many times it’s easy to lose confidence within ourselves. You must visualize and believe that you can change bad habits into good habits. Remember, success comes with deliberate actions.

Related Posts

Start the New Year by Believing in Yourself by Adding Value to Yourself

Start the New Year by Believing in Yourself by Adding Value to Yourself


Why can’t people see potential in themselves? Why can’t people believe in themselves? Why don’t people add value to their life on a consistent basis?

The main problem is that people don’t see value in themselves. Therefore, they don’t add value to themselves. People will never go beyond their belief system in themselves. No matter what you may think you are capable of doing, if you don’t invest in your growth, you will not go beyond those limiting beliefs. Another way of looking at this is in the area of self-image. On a scale 1-10, if your self-image is three, you will never raise above two.  

In his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell explains in “The Law of the Lid in order to be effective in leadership, you must raise above the lid – those limiting beliefs to be effective.” 

With my own story, I should’ve been a negative statistic—a black kid in the ghetto. Born one of ten children in the great city of Newark, N.J., I lived in abject poverty and was raised by a single parent who worked multiple jobs to keep her family afloat. Statistics said I should’ve been in jail, on drugs, or dead, but I’m not because one day I took a hard look at myself in the mirror and asked myself, am I’m worth it?  You’re damn right, I am! That self-talk did me good, and my life changed.  I became the first in my family to graduate college with a Ph.D. and the first to finish a career in the military and retire honorably.  Now, I’m a senior Department of Defense civilian in the areas of logistics, acquisition, and contracting along with my entrepreneurial ventures—speaking coaching, and training. All of this didn’t happen overnight. It happened because I believed in me and in my self-worth. Wayne Dyer says it best, “Self-worth comes from one thing- thinking that you are worthy.”   

I needed to change my direction. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.” I took an assessment of myself and saw a few areas of weakness. I wanted to change my direction and destiny.  Like John Maxwell said, “Tomorrow’s destiny becomes today’s direction.” I did what it took to succeed – increased my learning power by taking classes. I got around the right crowd of people. I fed my mind with pure and powerful thoughts along with reading those books that outline the destiny I wanted.  How did I change my direction?

  1. Change my thinking towards my self-worth. I reprogrammed my thoughts towards pure and powerful thoughts, and I guarded what I read and listened to. One of my favorite Bible verse is Proverbs 23:7, “As a man think in his heart so is he.” In James Allen’s famous book “ As a Man Thinketh, he says, “The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves, and that which it fears. It reaches the height of its cherished aspirations. It falls to the level of its uncharted desires- and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own.” You are the master of your thoughts. You are the planter of the seeds you have sown in your mind, and you are the harvester of the fruits your mind will reap.
  2. Stop comparing myself to others. This is your journey and no one else. When this became a reality to me, I didn’t have to be like Johnnie, Billy, or anyone else. I had to be myself, which took a lot of weight off of me. “Your life is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” Steve Jobs once said.
  3. Go beyond my limiting beliefs. The Bible verse in Romans 8:37 says, “But in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who love us.” God doesn’t see us as defeated. Why should we see ourselves as defeated? Get rid of the negative thoughts and fill your mind with pure and powerful ones.
  4. Add value to others as you are adding value to yourself. If you want to lift your spirits, make a difference in someone else’s life. John Maxwell said, “It’s hard to feel bad about yourself when you’re doing something good for someone else.”
  5. Practice consistently and persistently small disciplines in your life on a daily basis. If your life is overwhelming with health, work, family, or something not mentioned, try tackling those overwhelming circumstances a little at a time daily. How do you get rid of the elephant in the room? A little at a time. Be consistent in your efforts. Be determined, motivated, and focused. Be disciplined.

 If you want to change your life, you must take control of your life and make positive changes. Yes, I was born in the ghetto, but it wasn’t born in me. I changed my thought patterns daily. Now, I am successful in everything I do. You can do this, too.

So, in 2020 take a look in a mirror, see value in yourself, add value to yourself, and then add value to others. I am a true believer that whatever you sow into others you will reap.  If you want value and self-worth to become your reality, invest in someone else’s life the same way.

Related Posts

Job satisfaction (everyone’s responsible)

Job satisfaction (everyone’s responsible)

Finding meaning in work increases the satisfaction and bottom line of not only the employee but the employer period. It’s a proven fact, according to researchers, that employees who find meaning in their work benefits the organization.

We all know of the survey taken by the Gallup poll in 2013 that shows the workforce in the United States. Only 30% enjoys what they do, which means that 70% are not enjoying this satisfaction in their work (Gallup polls 2013). This costs United States companies a loss of billions of dollars in revenues.

According to researchers, people who choose a career that they felt called to do find purpose in those careers or a connection to their career, which benefits both themselves and the organization.

For example, take the study done on the zookeepers by researchers Bunderson and Thompson. They found that the surveyed zookeepers found passion in their work. Many would volunteer months and even years to get a covenant permanent position on staff with an annual salary of $25,000. The job description involved scrubbing concrete or ceramic floors enclosures and cleaning up animal waste, which sometimes onlookers saw as demeaning work (Journal of Vocational Behavior, 2011).

What makes the zookeepers passionate about their jobs or about their work? Both researchers found that when pinpointing the real reason behind their enthusiasm of working as a zookeeper, they found the job had value and they looked at their jobs as a calling, which added meaning. The zookeeper felt a deeper connection to the bigger mission, not only caring for the animals but maintaining and preserving the entire species.

In his book, Leadershift, John Maxwell (2019) explained that a calling is bigger than a career. He described a calling as a change of perspective and worldview. He continued by saying that your calling shifts your focus on seeing your job or career as being a responsibility and an obligation to seeing opportunities.   

Reflecting on the zookeepers, they saw their responsibilities as opportunities to become a part of something bigger than them. The researchers explained that the more the zookeepers saw the benefits in what they did the more they fed themselves psychologically (Journal of Organizational Behavior, 2010).

Even as a career soldier in the military who spent over 22 years including four deployments and participated in both Desert Storm and Desert Shield, I believed in what I was doing. I enjoyed what I was doing because I bought into the mission and vision of the Army. I wanted to serve and defend my country. My service was protecting our freedoms against foreign and domestic enemies. It was not a job or career. I had a purpose in doing what I did.  I served with distinction and pride. I enjoyed every minute of it. When I retired from the military in 2004, I continued serving as a Department of Defense civilian. I feel honored in my continual support of the warfighter (soldier) on the combat field is getting the necessary equipment supplies and services that is needed to fight and deter foreign enemies. I find meaning and purpose in what I do. Therefore, I was satisfied. Researcher Rosson in his survey found that defining meaning in one’s work increases motivation, empowerment, engagement, career development, and job satisfaction. Additionally, it reduces absenteeism and stress on the job. (Organizational behavior, 2010).

Employers need to help employees understand and know the overall mission and vision of the organization. In the military as a new commander taking charge of a unit or battalion command, it was imperative that he or she communicated the mission and vision to the subordinates within 30 days of taking command. This is done in writing and group discussions.  Clarity is important!

A few days ago, I attended a new employee’s orientation that was required for all new employees. My main boss spoke and shared his vision, its importance in the overall picture of the organization, goals for the organization, and his passion for inclusiveness. Additionally, he spoke for about an hour and a half, which didn’t seem like it. However, when he finished, I had a clear understanding and felt empowered to carry out the mission and goals of the Army organization. Look out for its pitfalls, embrace its priorities, and build towards its future.   

Everyone attending the orientation saw empowerment, purpose, and meaning. I am sure all in the room will do great and wonderful things.

Job satisfaction is not only the burden of the employee to find meaning and motivation to perpetuate the mission and vision of the organization, but the employer to guide, direct, and clearly state to the employee its purpose.

Derrick Darden, PhD

Goal mindset versus the growth mindset

Goal mindset versus the growth mindset

I set a lot of goals for my life. Many of them I have hit the bull’s eye. Others I have fell short of the objective, and we have certain milestones or targets that we need to hit along the way in order to realize the goal. When you hit the target or gold, you feel good or ecstatic.

Earl Nightingale said it the best—that success is the realization of a worthy ideal.

But the problem with goal setting is our tendency not to see what’s next on our journey. Some would say, “Derrick, I have reached the peak of this mountain that I set for myself.” Sadly, many lose the drive, no stamina or no desire, and they stop at that point. It’s like you accomplished a small success, and then you rest on that small success. You never move forward or beyond.

When you think about a growth conscious person, they continue beyond that goal and take on a different mindset. In fact, they want growth. You will continue growth, and you will hit all your goals when you look back on your journey five or ten years later.

Man, that is a great feeling to move on to greater heights. You keep climbing the ladder until you reach heaven, and then you can stop. This reminds me of the song from the TV show, The Jefferson, which is a part of my story, “We’re moving on up to the east side.” I remember in the early days when I was in my 20s. I had just started a family and had a new job, which was 20 miles away from home. I needed transportation, and I didn’t have a lot of money. Neither my mother nor my siblings had the money to lend me to buy a decent vehicle. I saw an ad in the local newspaper that a private owner had a 1970 Plymouth that was once a taxicab for sale. The private owner removed the decals and the taxi cab signs. But it still had the painted colors of the local taxicab company.

On occasion I would get flagged down on the street by people wanting cab service. Many times I would stop to the anticipating customer and explain that my vehicle was privately owned, and they would have to call the local taxi cab company. Some would get really upset at me. This vehicle was always in the repair shop. Finally, I got tired of folks flagging me down and shoveling out wasted money for a beat-up vehicle, so I brought another used car, a Vega, which had an aluminum engine block. That car lasted a few months. The engine block cracked, and blue smoke traced my path down the local streets. I kept working through my trouble vehicles for three years when I bought a new Caravan off the showroom floor. That was a good feeling. However, I was in the military and serving my country and paying big monthly payments. Suze Orman taught me the lesson to stop using finance companies. But that took growth and hitting goal after goal after goal. During this time, I developed a growth plan for my life and started getting mentors in my life. Each mentor taught me growth principles that helped facilitate growth and maturity in my life. Looking back over my present journey, I see the growth, and the pain of growth. You may say that was great and proud of you. But I just don’t have the energy, knowledge,money, or time to plan for other growth challenges.

John Maxwell said, “now is the best time to start anything.” Ask yourself, if not now WHEN? Growth is intentional, not accidental.

The real process of growth begins with your thoughts. Those thoughts become words, and the words become actions! James Allen, author of As a Man Thinketh, says, “You cannot travel within and stand still without.” Think about it. All life, except mankind, grows to its full potential. It’s only mankind that circumvents the process. For example, how tall will a tree grow? A tree doesn’t decide to stop growing. It continues growing all its life.

So, I challenge you not to stop or do away with goal setting but go above and beyond goal setting and latch on to the growth mindset.

I love personal growth and development. And I think you will, too, once you start seeing a difference by applying what I have shared with you in this blog.