We live in challenging times. It’s vital to ask yourself, day in and day out: what sort of example do you set for your team? As a manager, it’s show-time all the time.  Every phone call, every meeting, every speech, every presentation, every employee interaction, you are on show.

It is important to realise that someone in your team is copying you right now, and the most influential part of you they are copying is your attitude.

Every time you come into contact with a team member some of your attitude will rub-off on them. If you’re feeling flat or uninspired, this will cause them to feel likewise.

Organisations and teams tend to become shadows of their leaders. Whether you manage 2 or 200 people, over time your team will become a shadow of you. So set an example your people will choose to follow.

People will take their cue from you even at the most insignificant times. How you treat the part-time receptionist will be seen as proof or otherwise of your leadership ability

It’s been said that leadership is example, persuasion, and compulsion – in that order. You lead first by example.

“The 3 most important ways to lead people are by example, by example, by example”

Albert Schweitzer

Here are four practical tips to help:

1. Be consistent.

Say and do the same thing. Be aware of what’s called the ‘say-do’ gap – your words and deeds must match otherwise cynicism will grow and your credibility will take a downturn. As a leader you must walk the talk – If you want your people to be energized, positive, upbeat and spooled-up, then you must lead by example. You must be energised, positive, upbeat and spooled-up.

The same applies if you want your people to show empathy and humility.

When you do what you say you’ll do, trust is strengthened. But if you make a promise and then, for some reason, conveniently forget it, trust goes through the floor.

Keep in mind you’re human and sometimes (it’s inevitable!) that means you will get it wrong. If somebody comes up to you and points out something you said or something you did that is not quite right, have the grace to acknowledge it. ‘You’re right, thank you for bringing it to my attention, I need to do some more work on that’.

That’s a gracious phrase for a leader to use when a shortfall is pointed out. You’re also setting the example for others as to how they should respond in similar circumstances. Lead by example.

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.”

Albert Einstein

2. Communicate the right message.

From time to time, ask yourself, “What message am I sending to my people?” For example, how do you answer the phone at work?

Think of the last time you answered an internal call. Now imagine we recorded it, and then distributed it worldwide to 25 million people? Are you happy with the way you answered?

If you are – brilliant. If you always sound upbeat, enthusiastic and glad to hear from whoever it is, no matter what you’ve got going on. That’s terrific.

However you meet some people, and sometimes they answer the phone well, other times when they’re busy, or having a bad day and you ring them, they sound a bit gruff, a bit downbeat, a bit as though the caller is interrupting whatever it is they’re doing. That’s not leadership. So ask ‘what message am I sending to my people?’

If the signal you send out is that work is a struggle then what possibilities are you denying yourself? On the other hand if the message you send out is ‘relish the challenge’ you are likely to get a much more successful outcome.

“What you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

3. The window and the mirror.

This a wonderful little idea and it comes from the work of Jim Collins who wrote an amazing book called, ‘Good to Great’. If you haven’t read it and you want to do some reading, it’s a great read. He has a concept which he calls ‘the window and the mirror’.

Here’s how it works. If results are poor, you look in the mirror to apportion responsibility, never blaming other people, external factors or bad luck.

On the other hand, if results are good, then you look out of the window to apportion credit to other people, external factors and good luck.

The effective leader takes most of the blame and gives most of the praise away. 

4. Admit mistakes.

Nobody wants to be led by a perfect leader, we’re human, we make mistakes. If you try and communicate that you’re perfect at everything, then everybody else is going to think, ‘You don’t need us.’

When you admit a mistake, then you’re leading by example, you’re saying it’s perfectly okay for everyone else to admit mistakes as well. It’s only when people admit mistakes rather than cover them up that you can fix them and sort things out.

People want to be led by a real person, not a textbook manager. Small people don’t admit mistakes and rarely apologise.

A recent study by Harvard Business School showed that apologising can make us more likeable and trustworthy. Apologising demonstrates high EQ.        

Prof. Henry Mintzberg in his book ‘Managing’ says, if you want to discover someone’s flaws marry them or else work for them. We all have flaws. We need to be authentic.

Phrases such as ‘I don’t know’, or ‘I made a mistake’ or ‘I got that wrong’, help us to establish trust. Yes, we are revealing we’re not perfect, but our people know that anyway.

Lead by example is THE key leadership skill that every manager should master.

“A leader leads by example, not by force.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Learn more about LDL leadership and management training courses.

Related Posts