Leading by example is a popular term in the conversation about effective leadership. However, what does it really mean? All leaders independent of their “address” within the hierarchy actually do lead by example.
Leading by example is a default position simply for the fact that people “listen” to the leader’s actions far more than they listen to the words.
By walking the talk, you will become a person others want to follow. Obviously, authenticity comes into play, too, because when leaders say one thing, but do another, there is no building of trust and any trust established will erode. Yet trust is required to generate enthusiastic followers!
Leadership by example does not mean that the leader is expected to do or be able to do everything that he or she requests from team members as skills are different. Effective leaders actually live by a set of core values and encourage everyone to adopt those values to live by at all times. I like to call this behavior “valueship”.
Here are a few more ways to lead by example.
- Always take responsibility! As the leader, you cannot assign responsibility, as it ultimately stays with you anyhow, because responsibility can only be taken, never given. That said, you certainly can hold people accountable for what they are supposed to do. Remember, blaming others will only diminish your credibility and keep your team members on the defensive, which ultimately sabotages potential progress.
- Be authentic at all times. Trust is the ultimate foundation of teamwork, and authenticity is the key to building trustful relationships. Remember, you will have to extend trust in order to gain trust! Yes, it means taking risks, which is very challenging for leaders as this pushes them outside of the comfort zone of “being in control”, which in turn requires courage.
- Keep an open mind. It is important to be receptive to new ideas, different viewpoints and continue to learn with every opportunity. Being able and willing to change one’s position as new and different information becomes available is actually a sign of strength. Remember, truly effective leaders are life-long learners.
- Demonstrate courage. Effective leaders walk through the fire (aka a crisis) first. They take calculated risks that demonstrate a clear commitment to a larger purpose, a vision, is leading by example
- Acknowledge your failure openly. This behavior makes it OK for your team to do the same and supports the understanding that failure is a part of the process to becoming extraordinary.
- Focus on solutions. Don’t dwell on problems; recognize problems as a challenge to be met and encourage to entertain solutions. Operate in the realm of abundance thinking at all times and avoid the trap of scarcity thinking!
- Become an active listener. Lead with questions and seek to understand – you will receive valuable insights into the way people think and you can establish a culture that encourages productive and healthy dialogue.
- Take care of yourself. A healthy mind in a healthy body! Exercise, don’t overwork, take a break and you will tend to have more energy to increase productivity. Set the tone by taking care of yourself because of a balanced team, mentally and physically, is a more successful team. Model the behavior, encourage it and support it! This is leading by example, too
- Demonstrate passion. Like Alexander the Great, leading his followers into battle with passion and compassion, effective leaders inspire greatness in their respective companies and organizations!
Leading by example represents a sure ticket to success.
Effective leadership always begins with self-leadership, which requires a high level of self-awareness and self-discipline.
As you may recognize, an honest, deep look into the mirror is always a good starting point to become the leader you want to be. A professional coach will be the ultimate partner enabling you to accelerate your progress and maximize your outcome. Here is a little self-assessment to reflect on.