Walking the Walk and the Footprints We Leave Behind

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“If you don’t know how to fix it, at least stop breaking it” – Severn Callis-Suzuki

Severn Callis-Suzuki at 12 years old addressed the United Nations about climate. I listened with growing respect as this young girl spoke with clarity and simple logic. Her message was that we can’t afford to do anything and we need to take action and do it now.

There was a deeper message that struck a cord with me. She was also asking us to be congruent with the values we pretend to up-hold but in reality we don’t. This is what she went on to say:

“At kindergarten you teach us to behave in the world, you teach us not to fight with others, to work things out, to respect others, to clean up our mess, not to hurt other creatures, to share and not be greedy. Why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?”

That is a powerful question.

As leaders we need to be able to answer questions like this and we should be able to understand the importance of our actions on the people we seek to influence. As role models it is up to us to show what we are teaching others when it comes to attitude, behaviours and principles.

It reminds me of the tale of Johnny:

When Johnny was 6 years old, he was with his father when they were caught speeding. His father handed the officer a £20 note with his drivers license. – “It’s OK” his father said as they drove off, “everybody does it”.

When Johnny was 8, he listened to his uncle telling his father about the work he was doing for ‘cash in hand’. – “It’s OK” said his uncle, “Everybody does it”.

When he was 12, he broke his glasses on the way to school. His aunt persuaded the insurance company that they had been stolen and they collected £75. – “It’s OK”, said his aunt, “everybody does it”.

When he was 16, he made the high school rugby team. His coach showed him how to grab the opposing players shirt so that the official couldn’t see it. – “It’s OK” said his coach “everybody does it”.

When he was 17, he took his first job at the supermarket. His assignment was to place the over ripe strawberries at the bottom and the good ones at the top. – “It’s OK” said his manager, “everybody does it”.

When he was 18, Johnny and a neighbour applied for a scholarship. Johnny was a marginal student. His neighbour was in the upper 3% of his class, but he couldn’t play ‘right back’. So, Johnny got the scholarship. – “It’s OK” his parents said, “everybody does it”.

When he was 19, he was approached by an upper-classman who offered him the test answers for £30. – so he took them, “It’s OK, everybody does it”.

Johnny was caught and sent home in disgrace.

“How could you do this to your mother and me?” his father asked. “You never learnt anything like this at home.” his uncle, aunt, boss and coach were all shocked.

If there is one thing the adult world cannot stand, it’s a kid who cheats ….

This month the questions are very straight-forward:

  • Are you the role model to others that you need to be? 
  • Are you setting the example to those you lead, of what you want in them? 
  • Are you the person you would be proud to know? 
  • When people look at you, do they see the person you purport to be or the person that demands of others what they are not prepared to do themselves?

These stories remind us of what we stand for and what footprint we leave as we lead our people. 

  • How do you want to be remembered? 
  • Not only in the future but every day as people go home!

Have a great month and best wishes, Paul

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