Any discussion concerning leadership qualities is incomplete without the cliched pointer that all great leaders lead by example. But it is not just great leaders but every leader – including you – who leads by example. That’s because all that you do, good or bad, is being monitored by your subordinates. They imbibe your actions and follow your example.
Hence, you need to set up the right standards through your work. All that you do is going to percolate down the hierarchy in your organization. Therefore, while motivating your employees is essential, your efforts to inspire them through positive actions are equally significant.
Let’s discuss four ways that you can use to lead by example and impact your behavior effectively.
1. Success belongs to the team
Former President of India, Doctor APJ Abdul Kalam, once mentioned how his superior led by example during the launch of SLV3 satellite.
When the mission failed in 1979, the then Chairman of ISRO, Mr. Satish Dhawan, took responsibility for the failure. He faced tough questions from the media in a press conference and displayed trust in his team.
However, the next year when the mission was successful, he asked his team to attend the press conference and take credit for the triumph.
That’s how you need to perform as a leader.
You need to own failures and share the success with your team. When you take up any failure head-on and step back in times of success, you gain the respect of your employees. They look up to you and try to follow your suit.
2. Follow your rules
You need to ‘walk the talk’ as a leader. Imagine Mahatma Gandhi, a preacher of non-violence, getting involved in physical abuse. If that had happened, his followers would have been disappointed and resorted to violence themselves. Similarly, only when you abide by your rules, will people follow them.
For instance, if you want to restrict your employees from using social media during working hours, you should not scroll through them yourself.
Contrarily, if you practice double standards – make rules for the team and not apply them to yourself- your subordinates will feel betrayed. You will lose their trust, and they will develop a negative attitude towards your guidelines
3. Take responsibility: Get your hands dirty
If you follow the ‘Do as I say and not as I do’ philosophy, you will opt for the hands-off approach i.e., you may delegate complex tasks to your subordinates and wait for them to solve things. In cases like these, your subordinates are bound to feel that you are not contributing enough, or that you lack sufficient knowledge.
On the other hand, if your team witnesses you participating in complicated matters and finding solutions to tough problems, they will be inspired to take up challenging assignments as well.
Hence it is imperative that you push your limits and not hesitate to take up the cumbersome tasks yourself.
When you are ready to get into the minor details and solve the problems yourself, you get closer to the business needs. This helps you get a better perspective of solving existing issues and generating new ideas.
4. Listen to your team
When you are open to discussions with your employees, you get exposed to great ideas through brainstorming. A piece of advice from them about the processes and methods has the potential to make a big difference. Moreover, it makes them feel valued as they are able to contribute to the growth of your organization.
When your employees are sure that you will listen to them, they are more likely to follow your lead. The management of Jack Welch of General Electric is a classic example of how removing barriers to open communication can lead to productive outcomes.
Jack allowed everyone in GE to brainstorm and think of ideas instead of waiting for someone higher up in the organization. He promised to listen to anyone in the company who has something to suggest that could make the company better. This resulted in employees following his lead and developing a culture that nurtured the growth of GE under his management.
If you expect people to follow your lead, you need to set up the right examples.
Your employees look up to you and are influenced by your actions rather than by your words. They take a cue from what you do and try to emulate it.
Remember, the best motivation for your followers is always your individual work. When you take charge and show your employees what’s possible, they feel ‘If he can do it, we can do it too.’ If you exhibit the best in you, your employees, too, will give their best to everything they do.
Do you have more ways to add to our list of how to lead by example? Do let us know in your comments.