Those who lead by example let their actions (and not their words) exemplify acceptable forms of behavior or conduct. In a manager-subordinate context, the intention of leading by example is for employees to emulate this behavior or conduct themselves.
Understanding leading by example
In the process, they clarify acceptable forms of conduct and ensure every member of the team works with confidence and purpose toward common objectives.
Leading by example can also be embodied by subordinates who have some form of influence over others.
They may exhibit desirable personality traits that others feel compelled to imitate, take a stand on an important issue, or possess expertise on a particular subject.
What does leading by example look like for managers?
Leadership in business takes many forms and in some cases, can extend beyond the workplace. Here are some examples:
- The leader who comes in early or works weekends with subordinates to ensure a complex project is delivered on time.
- The team member who is detail and deadline-oriented and consistently delivers work on time and within budget.
- The CEO who makes time in their busy schedule to attend diversity and inclusion training to show subordinates they take it seriously.
- The employee who volunteers to do less desirable jobs at the company working bee, and
- The team member prioritizes employee development and growth by creating and running workshops.
Leading by example best practices
In this section, let’s take a look at some of the ways leading by example can be embodied:
Empathy is contagious in business and is well suited to leading by example.
When leaders show empathy, it provides a safe space for team members to do likewise.
Empathy promotes an environment where employees feel they can discuss difficult issues like unethical behavior or harassment.
Listen to the team
Those that lead by example understand the limits of their knowledge and know that even the most junior employees have the wisdom to share.
This is particularly true of specialist teams recruiting members for their skills or expertise.
Resolve conflict constructively
Leaders cannot expect their team to handle conflict well if they themselves shut down after a disagreement.
Leading by example, in this instance, means addressing conflict calmly and productively.
Managers must acknowledge the problem, briefly explain their reasoning, and conclude with a neutral solution.
Bounce back from failure
Failure is an inherent part of life and business but it can nevertheless leave employees deflated and unmotivated.
Those who lead by example recover after failure by inspiring employees to dust themselves off and try again.
They remind employees that all failures are learning opportunities and ensure they maintain adequate perspective.
- Those who lead by example let their actions (and not their words) exemplify acceptable forms of behavior or conduct. In a manager-subordinate context, the intention of leading by example is for employees to emulate desirable behavior or conduct themselves.
- Leadership in business takes many forms and in some cases, can extend beyond the workplace. It can also be embodied by individuals within teams who can influence others in ways not related to their job title.
- Some of the many ways a manager can lead by example include showing empathy, resolving conflict constructively, listening to the team, and proactively bouncing back from failure.
Leading by Example Key Highlights:
- Definition and Purpose: Leading by example is a leadership style where actions, rather than words, set the standard for acceptable behavior. It aims for employees to emulate these behaviors.
- Servant Leadership: It involves modeling behavior to clarify conduct expectations and drive the team toward common goals.
- Variety of Examples: Leading by example is not limited to managers; it can be exhibited by anyone with influence. It can include actions such as working alongside subordinates, prioritizing diversity training, volunteering, or facilitating workshops.
- Empathy: Leaders should display empathy, creating a safe environment for employees to express concerns and discuss difficult issues.
- Listening to the Team: Acknowledging others’ expertise and wisdom, particularly in specialized teams, fosters a culture of respect and collaboration.
- Constructive Conflict Resolution: Leaders should address conflicts calmly, explain their reasoning, and work toward neutral solutions to demonstrate productive conflict management.
- Resilience After Failure: Leading by example involves bouncing back from failure, inspiring employees to learn from setbacks, maintain perspective, and persevere.
Connected Leadership Concepts And Frameworks