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Leading By Example

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” ―Albert SchweitzerLeaders go first. If we’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a thousand times. We all agree. There is little doubt that our example is our very most effective leadership tool. But we don’t always think it through and make our behavior as leaders match what we know. Great leaders think through the question, “What is the example I want to be setting?”Effective leaders are not trying to clone themselves but are trying it influence the behavior of others for the good of the organization by behaving in a way that is fully worth following. The leader must start by:

  • thinking and clarifying what you are looking for from your team.

  • looking in the mirror to see if you are delivering those things personally

  • giving you a process for translating what you want into the behaviors that produce it.

The life as a leader would be easier if we could just say all the right things and know that those words would significantly influence our team. But that’s now how it works. While our words matter, what we do matters far more. Others watch our feet and hands more than our lips.If we want our influence to be positive and productive, we must be clear on what we want from others, and then make sure our actions (as well as our words) support that. When we do this, we are leading by example in an intentional and productive way. You set the tone as the leader for the entire organization.If you’re careless in your relationships and interactions with people, your example isn’t going to be one that anyone wants to imitate. Leading by example requires you to be honest with yourself, and intentionally work toward setting an example that your team members (and even your peers or competitors) are excited to follow.Your own example is certainly most powerful leadership tool you have. You can choose these 7 actions to get you and keep you on that path:Roll up your sleeves. Like Alexander the Great leading his troops into battle, you will inspire your team when they see you do what you want them to do. One of my favorite business stories is hearing about Sam Walton putting on an apron and packing groceries so he could help his employees and show them he’d been in their shoes.When you, as a leader, step into someone else’s role, you get better at leading because you experience the life of your team members, you show them that you understand what they do and value it, and you show you are not above the work. Don’t get trapped there, and neglect the things that only you can do, but whenever there is an opportunity to join the team on the field, do it.Level the field in key areas.Great leaders know that it is demoralizing to the team for leaders to get the perks, the privileges, the best of everything. Breaking down those barriers is key, visible ways is one way of showing the whole team that everyone is valued and included, not just high-level execs or senior leaders. Make sure everyone has the best working environments possible, not just the high execs. Deliberately take the last choice, the worst of the pick sometimes.Can insecurity.We all want people to like us. Even the moist tough-skinned among us get a little ruffled if we It’s natural to want to please people around you, make them happy, and get them to like you. Even the coolest, most “I don’t care if anyone likes me”-leaning leader will admit (privately, maybe) that it does bother him a little bit when someone on his team doesn’t like him.Often leaders have to make unpopular decisions, and even if your example is a great one and your company is a huge success, there will always be someone who just doesn’t like you that much. You have to be OK with that. You have to let go of that insecurity and ask yourself, “Are my actions and decisions determined by what’s best for everyone?” If the answer is “yes,” move on.Take responsibility.Blame always comes at the cost of your credibility. Your team members become defensive and divides the team. It ultimately will sabotage any real growth.Be truthful in every situation, especially when it is hard.Even the smallest misrepresentation erodes trust. Be courageous, and walk through a crisis, taking the risks that leadership needs to take for the grand purpose. If you fail, address it directly. When you honestly address failure, it makes it OK for your team to do the same, and to acknowledge that the path to greatness has some stumbles.Create solutions. Prove what seems impossible generally isn’t. To encourage your team to try new things and achieve big goals, you need to take on those seemingly impossible challenges yourself, too. Show others how to think outside the box by doing so yourself. Taking on those challenges (and achieving what you set out to) shows your team that hard work pays off and innovation is valued.Don’t dwell on the problems. Be the first to offer possibilities and ask your team for more.Consistently get better.Leading by example doesn’t automatically mean everything you do is right. The biggest wins your company ever sees will sometimes come from your teammates looking around at how they’ve been led and what decisions were reached. And helping you get better next time.You have to relentlessly self-evaluate and invite others into that feedback process to become a better leader and set the best example. Your culture should be one that challenges everyone to think about what’s best for the company, not one that limits them to only thinking the way you do. Your example could be great, but you have to remain open to other ideas and challenge your team to always do better. Listening, asking questions, seeking to understanding sets you apart as a leader. You will get valuable insights that improves you and will encourage your team to keep up on the self-improvement as well.

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