8 Strategies To Help You Lead by Example in the Workplace
Updated 18 March 2023
Managers may use various strategies to lead their teams more effectively. Leading by example is one of these strategies that can benefit teams in many ways. Learning how to lead by example may help you increase the productivity and efficiency of your teams. In this article, we discuss what leading by example is, the benefits of it and eight ways you can do it.
What does it mean to lead by example?
Leading by example is a technique used in business that is based on the idea of demonstrating behaviours to be emulated. By doing something exemplary, employees are more likely to emulate the behaviour out of a sense of obligation and a desire to achieve their own personal goals. To lead by example, you must nurture social skills like active listening, empathy and emotional intelligence. When experienced leaders take the lead in these areas with others, these behaviours become contagious. The leader's growth only becomes more effective for everyone involved.
Benefits of leading by example
Here are some common benefits of leading by example:
Sets clear expectations
Leading by example sets clear expectations for your team members because giving your team members specific instructions on how to complete a task is easier if you can show them how it's done. You may use examples of your daily work schedule to show how you completed tasks you needed to finish before the end of the day. You may also include details about how much time it took you to complete those tasks. This helps set clear expectations because it shows your team members what you do on a daily basis so they can follow your lead.
Motivates team members
Leading by example can help motivate team members by showing them the positive results of productive activities. Managers can also show team members that specific activities are more easily completed, motivating them to attempt the same activities more readily. For example, if a manager can show their team members that specific sales strategies create value for their organisation, that may inspire team members to attempt those strategies.
Improves employee engagement
Leading by example may improve employee engagement by allowing managers to show their passion for the activities that they assign to their team members and the importance of their work. This may help employees understand the personal value that their work provides and increase their ability to engage with their assignments. For example, if a lawyer shows their paralegal team that researching case files extensively may allow them to win cases more often, they may increase their engagement when researching for future cases.
Provides constructive feedback
If managers complete tasks assigned to their team members, they may be able to provide more useful and constructive feedback to employees when they are attempting the same tasks. Managers may develop a greater awareness of the complexities involved with specific tasks and strategies that are more likely to result in success. For instance, if an engineering manager is managing a team that is building a bridge, they may be able to provide more constructive feedback if they assist in the planning and building of the bridge.
Facilitates a supportive company culture
Leading by example may help facilitate a supportive company culture by uniting team members behind common goals and improving the respect that team members have for their managers. If managers can successfully complete tasks they expect their team members to complete, it may help validate their place within the company as a leader. For example, if a software design manager can effectively design complex programs, they may gain the support and respect of team members who also create such programs.
Related: 8 Essential Supervisor Skills
Ways to lead by example in the workplace
Leading by example can result in a creative, productive and enjoyable workplace where all members of the team feel valued and do what's necessary to help the group succeed. Here are eight strategies you may employ as a manager:
1. Facilitate team productivity sessions
Facilitating sessions with team members where you show members how to complete specific tasks by completing them yourself is an effective way of leading by example. This may provide your team with the ability to ask questions throughout the process, understand each step involved in the tasks and see that you are capable of completing the assigned tasks. For example, if you're a sales manager, you may conduct a team session where you conduct cold calls, showing examples of specific verbal sales strategies and ways to handle sales objections.
2. Follow through on your promises
One of the greatest ways of leading by example is by building a foundation of trust. The best place to start is by following through on your promises. This shows the team your level of commitment and helps them place their confidence in you as a leader. You may find that they are more willing to ask questions, take on extra responsibilities and be a more engaged member of the team.
Related: Top 9 Leadership Skills to Develop
3. Come to work with energy
If you're planning on leading by example, come to work with a smile on your face, a positive attitude and productive energy that translates to increased momentum and motivation as you complete your daily tasks. Your team may pick up on your attitude and naturally mirror it, resulting in a productive workforce that supports each other and exhibits a great approach to getting the job done. Leadership courses can develop your ability to provide positive energy to your teams. Ensure you get an adequate amount of rest while not at work to help you stay energetic while at work.
Related: 8 Effective Leadership Tips
4. Work alongside your team
The most effective leaders work alongside their team. Even if you have your own office, spend a lot of time outside of it so that your employees feel you're an integral part of the team. The more you do the work with them, the more of an understanding you have about their individual skills, tasks and projects that they're working on, which may help you lead better, answer their questions and guide them to success.
If you work closely with your team, you can build trust with them and boost team morale. Another benefit of working alongside your team is that you have a more intimate knowledge of any struggles. You can then work on the solutions they need to make their job better.
5. Follow the rules
If you want the office to function at its best and be a place where everyone is accountable for their work, consider establishing rules. Rules can provide a lot of clarification on expectations and responsibilities. When leading by example, follow the rules you've set and the rules of the organisation. If you do, your team is more likely to follow the rules, which helps the workplace function more cohesively.
6. Place trust in your team
Start by making sure your team understands the company's vision, values and goals and how they play a large part in the organisations' success. Remember that your organisation hired every employee for a reason, and each one has a certain skill set and experience that is unique. Trust your team to do their work and do it well, and you may not only gain their respect but also serve as an inspiration to other leaders in the workplace.
7. Attend workshops and training sessions
Effective leaders often continue to develop their leadership skills throughout their careers. It's important to show your team that you realise you don't have all the answers but that you have a commitment to gaining the knowledge, education and insight you need to excel in your role. This may help them trust your leadership and also feel inspired to find similar opportunities for themselves, like conferences and networking events.
8. Consider your words and actions
When communicating with your team, your words and actions may be subject to individual interpretation. If you're leading by example, it's important to be cognisant of how your team may interpret what you say and do so that you can be more mindful of your attitude and behaviours. Even in challenging work situations, try to remain supportive of your team and offer words of encouragement.
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