Great leaders lead by example. Have you ever truly watched great leaders in action? Their actions and behaviors are aligned with what they say. There is no inconsistency in their behavior. They are the person others want to follow. When leaders say one thing but do another, they erode trust and credibility, both critical elements of productive leadership.
Here are 10 of the dozens of ways to effectively lead by example.
1. Take responsibility. Blame costs you your credibility, keeps team members on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real personal growth. Take personal responsibility for your mistakes and treat them as opportunities to learn and grow.
2. Be truthful. Inaccurate representation affects everyone. Show that honesty really IS the best policy. Earlier in my career I had a boss who used to say “the truth will set you free”. It’s a mantra I have operated from my entire life. It’s so much easier to fess up and be done with it rather than carry around all that guilt.
3. Be courageous. Take calculated risks that demonstrate commitment to a larger purpose. Over 50 years ago my parents took the bold step of leaving their country behind to travel to a new one where they didn’t know the language and had no marketable skills, in the hopes that they would create a better life for themselves and their future children. Despite the risks, the hardships, they managed to forge a better quality of life and enjoyed much success and happiness.
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. Ultimately, we need to look at failure as just feedback and an opportunity to do something differently next time based on what we have learned.
5. Be persistent. Try and try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don’t define you, your company or the team. Did you know that an airplane pilot is off course 80-90% of the time flying towards his/her destination airport? For most of the flight, the pilot is navigating through “obstacles” and yet with his/her goal clearly in sight, arrives at his/her destination every time.
6. Create solutions. Don’t dwell on problems; instead be the first to offer solutions and then ask your team for more. Instead of looking for reasons why something can’t be done ensure that you are leading the way looking for creative solutions or ways to solve problems.
7. Listen. Ask questions. Seek to understand the message or person communicating with you. You’ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue. So many people have stopped “actively” listening to others. They allow distractions or multi-task thereby engaging in “pretend” listening. In truth, you are much more productive when you are focused on one thing at a time. When you practice active listening you hear a lot more between the lines and not just what’s at the surface.
8. Delegate liberally. Encourage an atmosphere in which people can focus on their core strengths. It will free you up to be more productive, it will develop confidence and skills in the people who take on the task being delegated and it creates better teamwork.
9. Take care of yourself. Exercise, don’t overwork and take a break. A balanced team, mentally and physically, is a successful team. Model it, encourage it, support it! I’ve seen executives work all kinds of hours, not eat right and have no time for exercise and then get a really bad cold for weeks they can’t seem to shake or feel so drained they can’t focus. You wouldn’t let your grass grow two feet tall and then take a chain saw to it, would you? So why would you do that with your own body? You should take care of yourself the way you would maintain your lawn; seed it, water it, mow it, enjoy it!
10. Roll up your sleeves. Like Alexander the Great leading his men into battle, you’ll inspire greatness in your team. Just because you are the boss doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get in the trenches with the team. It provides you with terrific perspective, feedback and appreciation. Your team will reward you with loyalty, openness and trust.
Interested in enhancing your leadership abilities? Contact Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org
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