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Show Don't Tell: 6 Leadership Tips to Model the Way

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Photo by Iker Urteaga on Unsplash

Effective leaders are committed to acting on their values

Great leaders know that others are observing what they do and say. Every day is a powerful opportunity to show others the leadership behaviors and values we believe in.

What does it mean to Model the Way? It’s the act of authentically embracing and displaying your values to those around you.

Kouzes and Posner have shown through 35 years of research and evidence for The Leadership Challenge how leaders can practice leadership behavior to be more successful, improve employee engagement, and increase their organization’s financial performance. Learning how to Model the Way is just one part of the equation for leaders hoping to improve their leadership skills, but it is a crucial first step.


Two critical aspects of how leaders should Model the Way:

  • Clarify values: Be clear about your values and the organization’s values so others can see why you do what you do
  • Set the example: Show your values in how you talk and act to establish credibility and authenticity as a leader


6 Tips to Model the Way

  1. The first step is to discover your values. Think deeply about what is important to you and what you firmly believe in both inside and outside of your work.
  2. When you’ve identified what is important to you, compare how it relates to the organization’s values. Where do they overlap? Where do they differ?
  3. Identify ways to express what is important to you, honestly and authentically. Talking about your values with others opens the door for them to express their values.
  4. Now, think about those around you. Ask your coworkers, direct reports, or manager about their values. Understanding their values and how they impact the team’s values is the stepping stone to respecting and representing others as a leader.
  5. Once you have identified your values, the values of those around you, and the team’s values, display those values in your words, choices, and actions and give your team opportunities to show their values in their work.
  6. Hold the team and yourself accountable for upholding those values each day. Recognize team members who display the team’s shared values in their work. 

To reflect on whether you are embracing values-based leadership, set aside time each day or each week to ask yourself the following questions.


Questions to ask yourself as you improve on Model the Way:

  • How did I talk about my values and beliefs with others today?
  • Did I act on those values and beliefs in my interactions with others?
  • Did I thank or recognize others who demonstrated their personal values?
  • Did I set an example for how others at our company should act?
  • Did I champion someone for espousing the organization’s values as well as their own?
  • Did I follow through on what I committed to doing?
  • Did I share stories with others about how people within our organization are exceptionally displaying company values?


It takes time for leaders to learn how to Model the Way, especially as they are working to form a new habit. It takes effort and time to improve, but practice makes a leader. 

Don’t just think or talk about your values, live them. As a participant in one of our recent Leadership Challenge® Public Workshops said, the important thing is to let the action show.

Download an Overview of The Leadership Challenge

Bill Mugavin

Bill Mugavin , CPLP, is a senior consultant at FlashPoint. He has worked with top-tier Fortune 1000 global organizations to improve leadership and management effectiveness