Show & Tell

duck and ducklings

By Beau Crosetto

It is alarming to me how much leaders do not model for the people below them. I see it especially apparent the higher I look up the leadership ladder. It seems that the more and more someone gets removed from the ground level, less and less modeling takes place.  It is bothering me. These are the most skilled and advanced leaders. They/we need to be showing people what to do, not just telling them!

It’s time to get back into the pond and show people how to swim instead of shouting from the shore.

The other day I was having a conversation with a person I really look up to as a leader. They asked me about how I was modeling for the guy I am raising up and I realized I wasn’t doing a very good job in one area specifically. Sorry Nick 🙂

I had fallen into the trap that most leaders fall into:

Telling the people below you how to do it. You know, training, encouraging, motivating, and equipping the heck out of them, but never showing them in a live experience.

When we are done training them, we give them the proverbial “pat on the back” and say to them,

“Go get em and report back to me how it goes!”

But no amount of training, encouraging, vision, and encouragement can take the place of a great modeling session.

People need to see us do the stuff we want them to do. They need to see us prep, do, and debrief the experiences we want them to do. Whether it’s preaching, bible study leading, difficult conversations, or administrative stuff they need to see it.

A Difficult Conversation

Just yesterday this struck me further as I spent the day on campus with Nick and we did a couple meetings together with students. I modeled for him difficult conversations. He took the lead on one meeting and then I took the lead on another. As you can imagine, the debrief and learning that we had together afterwards was incredible. Nick learned so much about himself and was able to see a different person with a little more experience than him do what he is trying to do. I was able to give him real feedback about what he did really well and what he could work on.

It was so much better than just telling him how to have a good meeting and how to navigate a difficult conversation. I got to show him.

Obviously I am not saying training and telling and encouraging is not important. Im just pointing out what you already know: It just can’t take the place of showing and watching and debriefing live experiences!

Kids Make us Model

Recently I have been teaching my boy to play tennis and basketball and it amazes me how much he learns by just watching me and doing the sport with me. I mean, two year olds teach you all you need to know about modeling.

You can’t tell them to go out and hit a tennis ball and “train” them perfectly how to do it through words at the dinner table. No way! The only way my kid is learning tennis and basketball is by being out there with me and shooting hoops. He sees how I hold the ball, swing the racquet, and position my body. He has to see it or there is no chance.

Our staff, employees, and young leaders are the same way. They are two year olds when it comes to some of the tasks you want them to do. They don’t get it and wont get it through words. You need to go show them and then it will click.

So lets get out there and start modeling with those we are leading!

What are you going to do to model for someone you are developing in the next week?

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About Laura Hairston

Laura is a wife, mom & practitioner. She serves on the National Leadership team for Forge America Mission Training Network and is co-founder of Waken Ministries, both organizations helping with missionary formation & discipleship. She lives in Dallas.


  1. As a Senior Drum Major in the University of Utah Marching Band I’m tasked to instruct our new Drum Majors their new job and responsibilities. This week I’m taking out our two new Drum Majors out to dinner to find out what they’re concerned about and where they think they need extra help. More specifically, I’ll be teaching them how to conduct a marching band during a football game, so that they get accustomed to the fast paced environment. Our hands on learning will come from watching reruns of historic football games while practicing calling out/conducting songs.

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