How to Lead by Example: Pave Your Way to Accomplished Leadership

A team is only as strong as its leadership. After all, it is the leader who is responsible for decision-making, allocating resources, maintaining good morale, and so much more. These individuals are responsible for guiding their team towards its final goal, forging a path for them to follow.

All that being said, how is this actually accomplished? How can one person achieve all of this on their own? What qualities should they cultivate in order to successfully manage a team, and how can they ensure that its members follow in their footsteps?

This is a complex question and one we do not have the space to fully answer in this article. Instead, we’re going to focus on just one skill crucial for leaders: leading by example. Read on to find out more about what this skill entails, why it is important, and how you can use it to build a more effective team.

What Does It Mean to Lead by Example?

So, what does it mean to lead by example? Really, the phrase is quite self-explanatory. In the context of the workplace, leading by example involves demonstrating to your team members how they should behave at work. It goes a step beyond merely telling someone what is expected of them; instead, you are exemplifying a standard they should endeavor to meet in their own work.

When leading by example, you should ensure that your behavior and actions match up with the instructions you give your employees. Saying one thing and doing another sends out a bad message to your employees: why should they adhere to the principles and standards you set out if you do not do so yourself?

Leading by example can help your entire team work towards its end goal. But how exactly does it do so? This is the question we will answer in our next section.

The Importance of Leading by Example

Leading by example has many benefits for you and your team. In this section, we tackle just four of the most important reasons, but you should keep in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive.

Increase Team Morale

One of the biggest advantages to leading by example is the boost it can give to team morale. Any effective team leader knows that their actions have a direct impact on employee attitude. When what you do aligns with what you say, when your actions fall in line with your company’s values and goals, your employees will notice—and it will have a big impact.

As morale goes up, so do productivity and company loyalty. Your employees will feel encouraged by the knowledge that they work under a leader who values honesty and authenticity. As a result, their performance at work will improve.

Gain More Trust and Respect

When you act according to your word, you prove to your employees that you are worthy of both their trust and respect. Your superiors will see you as a competent leader who meets company expectations and can manage a team, while your employees will see that they can expect you to do as you say you will.

By establishing this credibility with your employees, you also encourage their loyalty to you and the company. You will see for yourself that this will boost their performance at work.

Helps Cultivate a Healthy Work Environment

In order to maintain employee satisfaction, it’s important to establish a healthy work culture. Leading by example plays a significant role in this.

When you prove that you can “walk the talk,” and that the principles of your company play an active role in how you carry yourself in the workplace, you will be an inspiration to your employees. Furthermore, you’ll find your workers far happier when they know they’re working for someone whose word they can rely upon.

Boosts Productivity

It’s easier for your employees to be more productive when they have your good example to follow. If you make sure you work hard, keep your promises, and carry yourself with a professional attitude in line with the values of your business, your workers will, too. By setting the standard for your employees to follow, you can ensure that your team is productive.

On the other hand, if you slack off, fail to hold up commitments, and act in a way that is not in compliance with company values, you’ll find your employees’ work ethic suffer as a result. If you don’t act in accordance with your business standards, how can you expect your team members to?

Will Your Performance Suffer if You Don’t Lead by Example?

We’ve explained why leading by example is so important for your business. But will your performance suffer that badly if you refuse to do so? In short, yes.

Below, we explain some of the consequences you can expect to deal with if you do not lead by example:

  • Low morale: While leading by example can help enhance morale, refusing to do so can have the opposite effect. If your actions reveal that you do not care about meeting company standards and that you do not really believe in the values you claim to espouse, your workers will feel demoralized. Furthermore, if you say one thing and do another, your workers will not feel as if they can trust you. Would you feel enthusiastic about working under a boss you didn’t trust?;
  • Poor work ethic: Remember, you set the standard. As the leader of your team, you will be looked to as a mentor and role model—an example of how to behave at work. If you perform poorly, so will your employees; if your actions reveal that you do not really care about the role you are performing, then they will stop caring about theirs;
  • High employee turnover: If your employees feel they cannot trust you, if they’re turning up to work every day feeling uninspired and unmotivated, how long can you really expect them to stick around? Unsurprisingly, high employee turnover is an inevitable consequence of a “do as I say, not as I do” management style. This is bad for a few reasons. For one thing, it’s expensive; consider how much time and money you’ll have to spend recruiting, hiring, and training new stars if your employees keep leaving. On top of that, though, it makes it difficult for your employees to connect with one another, meaning it will be far more challenging for them to work well as a team;
  • Fail to build trust and respect: A final consequence of refusing to lead by example, and perhaps the most damaging, is the fact that it makes it difficult to encourage your employees to trust and respect you. This has a snowball effect on practically all facets of team management, from staff loyalty and performance to employee satisfaction and work culture.

How to Lead by Example

In short: yes, leading by example is important. That’s all well and good, you may be thinking, but it’s also easier said than done; how exactly does one go about cultivating this skill?

This section tackles that exact question. Below, you can find seven tips to keep in mind to help you not only lead by example but do so effectively.

Pitch In

One of the best ways you can lead by example is to play an active role in your business. Don’t be afraid of rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty. By showing up for work with a can-do attitude and working alongside your team, you can help develop a better work ethic among your team members.

It’s true that one of the main roles of a manager is to direct and delegate. However, you should balance this with putting in the work yourself and showing your team members how things ought to be done.

Follow Through On Your Promises

Make sure that, as the team leader, you actually stick to your word. Show your employees that you follow through on your promises, whether those promises are made to them, to customers, or to your own superiors.

By demonstrating to your team that you are honest and committed to your job, you will show them that you can be trusted. In doing so, you will bolster their confidence in you as their boss, thereby encouraging company loyalty and promoting a healthier working culture in your team.

Resolves Conflicts Swiftly and Constructively

Conflicts are an inevitable part of any job, whether between employees, managers, or employees and supervisory staff. As the team leader, you must do all that you can to resolve these conflicts as quickly as possible, finding a solution that all involved parties are happy with. Rapid conflict resolution not only ensures happy employees but also helps prevent interruptions to your workflow.

In addition to making sure arguments are dealt with promptly, you should also make sure that they are handled constructively. Encourage your employees to be open and honest regarding their own feelings while also respecting and acknowledging those of their peers.

Show Your Employees You Value Them

Clearly demonstrating to your team members that you value them and their contributions to the company will encourage company loyalty while showing that you are trustworthy and reliable.

When people feel appreciated by their boss, they’re more likely to feel happy and satisfied with their job—and are therefore more likely to put in that extra bit of effort and work hard. Giving your employees the acknowledgment they rightfully deserve can therefore help to boost overall performance.

Consciously Exercise Empathy and Compassion

Make sure to be empathetic and compassionate in all your dealings with employees. For example, if one of your workers has made a mistake, keep in mind that they are only human; you’ve probably made more than a few mistakes in your time, as well! When correcting them, make a concerted effort to be kind and compassionate in the way you handle the situation.

Also exercise empathy when your employees are going through difficult times, whether at work or in their personal life. It is possible to maintain professional boundaries while still showing genuine concern, doing what you can to ensure that they receive the support they need.

Exercise Humility

Another important tip for leaders is to try to cultivate a humble attitude. By this, we don’t mean to say that you should put yourself down or sell yourself short. Instead, be realistic about both your strengths and weaknesses, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice when you need it.

By openly demonstrating humility in front of your workers, the message you convey is that it is alright for them to have faults and gaps in their professional knowledge. This will help you maintain an open dialogue with your employees.

Be Open and Communicative

Our final piece of advice to help you effectively lead by example is to be open and communicative. A team works at its best when everyone is on the same page, working together to reach their goals. This can only be achieved through open communication.

By establishing an honest dialogue with your employees, you encourage them to place their trust in you. Furthermore, when you and your team are all open with one another, it becomes easier to find solutions to problems as a group.

Final Thoughts

Some people are born strong leaders. These individuals, however, are the lucky few. Most of us have to develop our leadership skills and work hard to cultivate qualities to help us effectively manage and guide a team.

Leading by example is one such essential skill. It takes a lot of hard work, perseverance, and persistence, but we hope this article has shown you that your efforts will pay off in the end. Keep in mind the information and advice set out in this article, and you too can experience the many benefits of leading your employees by example.