When I was young[er], every now and again I would run across someone older who would say “Do as I say not as I do.” As in, “don’t cuss even though you hear me cuss.”

Now that I am old[er], I run across people who will say, “What you’re doing is speaking so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” As in, what you say [telling me not to cuss] does not have any influence on me because I’m more influenced by what you do [cuss].”

As leaders, we recognize the importance of practicing what we preach (this is the last cliché, I promise!) If we want the people around us to practice integrity we must practice integrity; if we want the people around us to be kind we must be kind; and so on.

What we do as leaders carries more influence than what we say.

And along those lines, it might be helpful if more of us also understood the importance of our demeanor not just our actions.

In one of my previous assignments I was accountable for the success of four-day conferences that were held three or four times a year. No matter how much planning and preparation we engaged in prior to the conference, the first hours of the conference always seemed a bit chaotic. We always seemed to encounter something unexpected.

During one of those conferences a volunteer shared with me that during a particularly chaotic time, he became frustrated and flustered; then he noticed me across the auditorium. He saw that I was calm and seemed unconcerned despite what was going on around us. He said my calm calmed him.

I had not even noticed that he noticed.

But it did emphasize for me, that as leaders we are visible to those around us even when we are not actually doing anything and that whatever demeanor we are displaying influences those around us.

If we display that we are frustrated, it is more likely that others will be frustrated. If we display that we are offended, it is more likely that others will be offended. If we display calm, it is more likely that others will be calm.

Our demeanor matters because our demeanor influences, and good leaders effectively influence people to good outcomes

Have you ever been more influenced by a leader’s actions than her words? How did you respond? Did that change your view of that leader? I’d love to hear from you. Please send me a note via the contact form. As a thank you, I will send you an excerpt from my book, Transforming: The Power of Leading from Identity.