A true leader will walk the talk. Meaning each day you consistently stand up for the people you lead and the values of your organization. There is no substitute and no means of delegation which can achieve this. Instead of attempting to explain how to execute walking the talk, I prefer to rely on real-life examples that have inspired me.
One such leader is Gadi Eisenkot. On February 16th, 2015 Gadi became the 21st Chief of Staff (Ramatkal in Hebrew), the highest rank in the Israli Defence Forces. However, earlier in his career he was prematurely relieved from his command as a company commander, in a humiliating public event in front of his soldiers. This was due to the fact that he would not call his soldiers back from a well-deserved vacation after completing an assignment in Lebanon. As Gadi did not consider this new assignment worth bringing his troops back from a hard-earned break, he refused to participate in the operation. This man put his career on the line, as a true leader will always have the backs of his people.
However, solely standing up for your people is not enough to make a great leader. You must also be uncompromising when the values of your organization are at stake. When the situation required it, the same Gadi Eisenkot displayed just what it meant to be an uncompromising military commander while preparing his troops for battle. Having been appointed as the Golani Brigade Commander, one of the most admired units in the IDF, Gadi needed to address the lack of discipline displayed among his senior soldiers. Up until that time the senior Golani soldiers had enjoyed significant privileges and had the ability to ignore junior officers without consequences. It was a well known problem that most commanders had learned to live with. Eisenkot would not. He chose to address the issue. He sent soldiers and commanders to military jail, kicked others out of the unit, and disbanded the entire Golani company. This was something that had never been done before. By eradicating the problem, Gadi restored the values of his organization and changed the brigade forever.
The story that follows demonstrates just how great leaders will walk the talk and by doing so receive admiration and loyalty from those they lead.
“As an infantry soldier, the boots were my most important gear after my weapon. In the IDF boots are issued to soldiers by the army. I had a problem with a pair of boots; they did not fit well. I couldn’t get them replaced through the normal channels, because they were slightly worn but not enough to be considered obsolete. I wrote a letter to Rafael Eitan (Raful), which was the Israeli Chief of Staff at the time. Two weeks later I was ordered to report to the brigade’s commander. He was livid for not coming to him first. He first lectured me, then handed me a brand new pair of boots. I don’t know any other army where low-ranking soldiers have such access to their chief of staff and feel comfortable enough to ask for his intervention on such trivial matters.”
So walk the talk. This is something only you, a true leader can do.
Eric Kish as an author, speaker and practicing CEO. He is the author of 5 to 50 to 500: How to build and run scalable organizations and Everyday Turnaround: The art and science of daily business transformation