Employees take the bulk of their direction from their manager or team leader. In this role, it’s imperative that you lead by example, so your workers take notice.
If you’re slacking off, you can expect your employees to do the same. On the other end of the spectrum, if you work ridiculous hours, your workers might not feel comfortable leaving work at a reasonable time.
To lead by example, strike a balance in your managerial tactics. Here are some tips on how to teach your employees through your actions and statements.
Before that, here's Steve Jobs talking about his own style on how he lead by example:
This will affect your job and personal relationship alike. No one likes spending time with a person who never takes responsibility for their shortcomings.
These types of people will rationalize their failure by telling themselves it’s someone else’s fault. They don’t recognize their role in the team’s downfall, even if it’s staring them in the face.
One of the biggest negative characteristics a person can have - both personally and professionally - is the inability to accept responsibility. This will affect your job and personal relationship alike.
No one likes spending time with a person who never takes responsibility for their shortcomings. These types of people will rationalize their failure by telling themselves it’s someone else’s fault. They don’t recognize their role in the team’s downfall, even if it’s staring them in the face.
Having one of these people on your team can be devastating to morale. You’re eventually going to fail in one way or another, and people who don’t understand their role in the failure are doomed to repeat their mistakes.
When failure strikes you as a manager or team leader, use it as a teaching opportunity. Tell your team what you did wrong, and what you should have done differently to avoid the negative outcome.
In some cases, this can mean shouldering the blame when someone else is largely responsible. As a leader, it shouldn’t matter. Everyone’s productivity is a reflection of yourself, and the team’s failure is your own.
Accepting responsibility for failure will help you lead by example and show your employees how to do it for themselves. It’s no use to criticise the person next to you when a change in your actions might have prevented a negative outcome as well.
We often tend to look at vulnerability as a synonym for weakness. In reality, being vulnerable is one of the bravest things you can do as a manager.
Vulnerability opens the door for honesty and sharing among your employees. If you’re honest and share your struggles with your workers, they’ll share with you as well. This practice will create a happy, healthy, productive workplace where every member of the team is working for one another.
If you fail to lead by example by being vulnerable with your workers, they may feel isolated in their space. They might begin to think that you don’t care about how their lives are going and that you only care about progress.
Instead, let your team know that you appreciate their emotions and opinions by sharing personal information with them. Once they get to know you on a personal level, they’ll be more inclined to see your perspective on issues. They’ll also have more of an incentive to work toward your shared goal, as they won’t want to let you down.
Respect Company Leadership
One of the best ways to lead by example is to respect those who are above you. If you don’t recognize the chain of command, you can’t expect your employees to bring their problems to you.
No matter how frustrated you become with upper management, you can’t let your emotions get the better of you. Keep your complaints to yourself, and show your employees that the structure of the business is sound.
This way, employees will come to you with a problem instead of going over your head. If one of your workers contacts upper management before consulting you, you’ll appear weak, and your boss might think you’re losing control of the office.
Furthermore, pass along ideas and issues that your workers have to higher levels of management. Don’t provide your workers with an excuse to go over your head by presenting their concerns to people who are above you on the corporate ladder.
If you consider yourself a perfectionist, delegation can be even more difficult. You might not be satisfied with something someone else does, only because you weren’t involved.
To be a successful team leader, you have to delegate responsibility. It builds trust with your employees and lightens the load on yourself.
Show your team how to delegate by doing it yourself. Start by assigning small tasks to members of your team. Once they’ve proved their abilities, give them larger tasks until they master an aspect of your industry.
Once these employees have other workers under them, they’ll have an idea of how to properly delegate their work. Since this skill can be tough to master, teaching by example is one of the best ways to show how it’s done.
Don't Over Delegate
Contrary to our last point, it’s possible to delegate too much to your team. If you give too much of your workload away, your employees will see right through you.
Your workers will start to notice that you don’t have too much to do on a daily basis. They’ll see you handing off tasks; increasing the workload of others while lowering your own. This increase of work probably doesn’t come with an accompanying pay raise, and they’ll start to resent you as their leader.
Don’t be afraid to take on small tasks when your team has a full plate. As a manager, part of your job is to pick up some of the slack your team leaves behind.
Show your workers how to complete certain tasks by doing them yourself properly. You might even have a more efficient way of performing a task that members of your team never considered.
Optimize Your Work/Life Balance
Workers take most of their direction from their manager. If you show up late every day, your employees will likely follow suit. If you stay until 7:00 every evening, they might feel uncomfortable leaving you.
Strike the proper work/life balance to show your employees how to do the same. Work late when you have to, but don’t stay in the office for hours extra every night. Sure, grinding for bigger sales is critical if you want to earn more money, but don’t make people feel bad for having a life outside of work.
Additionally, maintaining a good energy and staying fit is one way to keep your employees happy and healthy. Bring workout clothes to work, go for a jog at lunch, and find other ways to promote healthy living among your team.
You might not realize it, but your team probably sees you as an example of their future. If you work 12 hours a day, never find the personal time, and can’t find a moment to exercise, your workers will take note. They’ll see their future as dim and might even decide to change career paths to avoid your tedious lifestyle.
Follow the Rules to Lead by Example
You shouldn’t think that you’re exempt from the office rules because you’re the boss. Employees will notice if you’re breaking your own rules. From there, they’ll either resent you for it or start breaking the rules themselves.
After all, if you don’t follow the rules then why should they? Obvious hypocrisy is one of the fastest ways to lose your team. They’ll begin to see you as a dictator rather than a leader. Show them that following company rules are critical to success.
If you can, explain why the rules are important to follow, and that they aren’t some arbitrary way to limit the fun.
Follow Your Own Advice
Relating to our last point, following your advice is another way to establish consistency with your message and lead by example.
If you tell a member of your team the best way to complete a task or close a sale, you should be doing the same thing as a leader.
If workers see you employing different strategies, they’ll start to create their ways of doing things. This isn’t all bad, but it can be confusing when you have a company full of people who are all doing things a little bit differently.
When you deviate from your advice, explain why you did so to those who witnessed it. Use your actions as a learning experience for the team - showing them different ways to deal with situations. That way, everyone will be on the same page. You won’t have to guess what went wrong if something fails.
Value Your Team
Making your team feel indispensable is a way to improve productivity and teach them how to value one another.
Showing each employee that they have value will also limit employee turnover. It’s costly to hire new employees when you consider recruiting and training, so you’ll be saving your company money as well as leading by example.
Encourage your team to come up with innovative ideas and recognize them for it.
Mentoring Future Leaders
Eventually, a percentage of your team will move on to larger roles at your company. Part of your purpose as a leader is to prepare them for these opportunities. When the time comes, they’ll emulate your leadership style until they develop one of their own.
You might not know it, but it's important how you lead by example.
Teach your team how to be leaders by being the best that you can be. Strive for excellence, take responsibility for your faults, and maintain a relationship with those directly underneath you.
If you follow these tips, you’ll start to create a professional environment where your workers will thrive. When it comes time for them to take on leadership roles, everything you’ve shown them will come to fruition
These are just some of the tips on how to lead by example at work. In addition, as a leader, you should continue training for your leadership development.