Model the Way: Practice for the LPI Item #1

James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner, and Elaine Biech


Help clients focus on the practice Model the Way and build leadership competence in setting a personal example, the behavior identified in item #1 of the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI).


The following statement is the first item in the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI), and relates to the Model the Way practice.

  1. I set a personal example of what I expect of others.

Based on client feedback and insight from your coaching work, you may determine that your client could benefit from focusing on this particular behavior as part of the Model the Way practice. As you work with your client in a coaching situation, the following suggested questions and activities have been created to stimulate discussion and reflection.

You will note that several of the activities reference a "journal." There is an assumption that your leader will have a personal journal in which to track plans, questions, and desires. A journal is an important tool for reflection on a leader's journey to excellence.

Remember, the value of these activities and discussion questions is not in the doing but in the follow-on discussion with you, the coach. Be sure to allow time to discuss the "so what" and the "now what" that occur as a result of any discussion or activity.

Questions You Can Ask


  • What do you think it means to "set a personal example?"
  • What are your top three defining values?
  • Imagine that you are setting the perfect personal example; what would it look like?
  • How will you know what the expectations are? What do you wish leaders you've worked for in the past had done more? Less?
  • Who can you relate to that is a good example of setting a personal example?
  • Where do you think there might be a disconnect between what you say and what you do?
  • Why should someone want to follow you?
  • If your team could select its leader, would they choose you? Why do you think that?

Activities You Can Suggest

Squeaky Clean Model: As a leader you must model the utmost integrity and professionalism.


  • Tempted to pad your last expense report? Don't do it.
  • Laughed at the last off-color joke? Don't do it.
  • Smiled when someone used a stereotypical comment? Don't do it.
  • Told a white lie about why you forgot to do something? Don't do it.

The harm is not in each of the little things that may have tempted you. The harm is in fooling yourself that it's okay. You need to model the highest level of integrity and professionalism for your team members. Setting an example is the most powerful act a leader can do. Besides, you have to live with yourself. This is an excellent topic for you to track in your journal.

Quote to Ponder: Michelangelo said, "Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle." What does this mean to you? How do you translate this to your daily work, your philosophy, and the business you are in? What are the trifles that you deal with? How do these trifles lead to perfection? Which trifles do you need to set a personal example? How do you plan to do that?

Make an entry in your journal. Remind yourself to review the answers to these questions next week after you've slept on it for a few days.

Set an Example: Although the following URL leads to a promotion for a DVD and book that are for sale from the Walk the Talk Company, viewing this message is worth your time if you want to always strive to be the best. features a message from Earl Nightingale's classic, The Strangest Secret. This recording earned the first gold record for spoken word, with sales exceeding one million copies. Nightingale is known as the "dean of personal development." How is this powerful message linked to setting an example for living the vision? How can you use this information as you Model the Way for others?

Be from Missouri: As a leader you must lead by example. You influence your employees' thoughts and behavior -probably more than you think. Regardless of what appears in your job description or in employee handbooks, your behavior is the real performance standard your employees and team members will emulate. They will assume it is okay and appropriate to do whatever they see you do. This means that it is critical that you set the example. You need to model the behavior and performance you expect from others. There's no magic here. It's really quite simple: just pretend that you are from Missouri, the "show-me state." Whether it is attitude, attendance, work ethic, or respect of others, simply show your team members what you expect them to do. Identify areas where you may not be the model that you would like your team members to follow. Then decide what you will do differently. At a future time you may wish to discuss your planned changes with your supervisor.

Adapted from A Coach's Guide to Developing Exemplary Leaders: Making the Most of The Leadership Challenge and the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) by James M. Kouzes, Barry Z. Posner, and Elaine Biech