Greetings. I knew that it was bound to happen. It was simply a matter of time before I actually saw a police car with turn signals. And since I wasn't able to take a picture given the compelling need to remain focused–rather than distracted–on driving, I realize that some of you just won't believe me. In fact, I'm still in a state of shock. But there I was, driving home from one of our projects, when the police car in question had the audacity to signal before thoughtfully coming into my lane. An act of civil obedience that has challenged me to question my assumption that these cars lacked turn signals and my lengthy quest to figure out the reason why.
At first I imagined that there was something about the nature of turn signals that made it more difficult to perform the duties of a police officer successfully. Then I imagined that the lack of lane changing guidance was due to a deliberate attempt to make police cars more discreet when pursuing the bad guys. And recently I've conjectured that given the current economic climate it was a visionary move that was intended to save money that could be better spent on more important police equipment. In any event, I had convinced myself that police cars came from the factory without turn signals. Even though one might expect police officers to lead by example when it came to observing our traffic laws and demonstrating the best possible driving behavior. After all, there are a lot of drivers out there who could use a strong role model. Student drivers. Distracted drivers. Drivers from other countries where it is even easier to get a license (if that's possible).
Of course, even I could appreciate the fact that there were times when officers were in the heat of a chase, or racing to a crime scene, or in need of an extra large cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee after a long shift. But most of the time they seemed to be driving along just like the rest of us–with no great sense of urgency. Or, at least, driving along like the rest of us who need to have our turn signals repaired.
And I started thinking about the times that we expect the leaders in our companies and organizations to be role models. Talking about the importance of innovation, or building strong relationships with customers, or being remarkably responsive, or collaborating and sharing insight and information…and acting in a way that demonstrates their commitment. Rather than ignoring promising new ideas or stifling initiative, or not making customers a priority, or not having an open door, or not sharing valuable information that would challenge and empower employees at all levels. Because they didn't see the power of leading by example. Or because they'd simply gotten out of the habit of using their turn signals.
We win in business and in life when we lead by example. And when we never forget that no matter how busy we are, impressionable minds are watching.