Whether you realize it or not, if you're a leader, your employees are watching every move you make. Good leaders must lead by example. By walking your talk, you become a person others want to follow. When leaders say one thing, but do another, they erode trust--a critical element of productive leadership.
Leading by example sounds easy, but few leaders are consistent with this one. Successful leaders practice what they preach and are mindful of their actions. They know everyone is watching them and therefore are incredibly intuitive about detecting those who are observing their every move, waiting to detect a performance shortfall.
There are many ways leaders can set an example to others, but here are 15 of those ways.
1. Take responsibility. Blame costs you your credibility, keeps team members on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real growth. Great leaders know when to accept that mistakes have been made and take it upon themselves to fix them.
2. Be truthful. Inaccurate representation affects everyone. Show that honesty really is the best policy. Promote an office environment of truthfulness.
3. Be courageous. Walk through fire (a crisis) first. Take calculated risks that demonstrate commitment to a larger purpose.
4. Acknowledge failure. It makes it OK for your team to do the same and defines failure as part of the process of becoming extraordinary. We always learn more from mistakes than successes, provided we seek to understand the point of failure and eliminate that particular issue.
5. Be persistent. Try, try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don’t define your company or team.
6. Create solutions. Don’t dwell on problems; instead be the first to offer solutions and then ask your team for more.
7. Listen. Practice patience and try to not interrupt when someone is talking. Be attentive, make eye contact, nod and ask pertinent questions. Ask questions. Seek to understand. You’ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue.
8. Let the team do their thing. Stop micromanaging. Communicate the mission, vision, values, and goals. Then step back and let the team innovate. Setting this example for the team will encourage your other managers to do the same.
9. Take care of yourself. The more you take care of yourself, the more energy you will have and the better work you will do. Exercise, don’t overwork, take a break. A balanced team, mentally and physically, is a successful team. Model it, encourage it, support it!
10. Roll up your sleeves. Show that when a job needs to be done, everyone at every level needs to chip in and participate. Do your part, and make sure that what needs to get done, gets done.
11. Demonstrate integrity. Inspiring your employees is important, but they must believe in you as well. They’ll look up to you if you fulfill your commitments, even if it’s something as basic as showing up for a scheduled meeting.
12. Establish an impeccable standard of excellence. The best way to establish a standard is by modeling the expected behavior yourself. Showcase excellence. When your actions have the potential to affect everyone around you and the bottom line, don't dabble in mediocrity. Reflecting excellence is critical to exercising effective leadership.
13. Share the credit. Collaboration is the key to success. You will quickly lose respect with your colleagues and co-workers if you tune them out and refuse to share the spotlight with them.
14. Be a fearless problem solver. Instead of freaking out in a bad situation, focus on ways to deal with problems. Be fearless and create solutions. How a leader reacts in a bad situation speaks a lot about his personality. So, make sure that you create a good example for others.
15. Praise improvement, even minor improvements. Psychologists discovered long ago that when you positively reinforce a desired behavior, people are far more likely to repeat that behavior. Most people want to do the right thing, which means you will find far more success in leading a team if you focus on using positive reinforcement rather than negative actions like threats and fear tactics.
When you “walk the talk,” your behavior becomes a catalyst for people’s trust and faith in you. And it also emphasizes what you stand for. Leading by example shows people exactly what you expect and gives them living proof that it can be done. On a deeper level, leading by example and being as good as your words builds trust. It’s a sign that you take what you say seriously so they can, too.