In today’s entrepreneurial landscape, many people are attracted to charismatic leaders who speak eloquently, understand how to rally people around a cause, and exude passion. At the same time, these individuals are generally only effective when they lead by example. The ability to lead by example is often included on lists of traits that contribute to excellent leadership, but what does the phrase actually mean? How does one lead by example and, more importantly, how can this trait be developed? Here are 10 ways you can lead by example that can help you to become a more effective business leader.
Listening to all members of your team
When the leaders of a team take the time to listen to each member and what they have to say, they demonstrate the importance of respect and show that great ideas can come from anywhere. Leaders should surround themselves with trusted experts and admit when there are gaps in their knowledge. Deferring to members of your team with more experience than you demonstrates that you are humble and willing to acknowledge your limitations. This, in turn, will help the team to function better as a single unit.
While actions tend to speak louder than words, bad-mouthing or complaining can destroy morale. Leaders need to remain mindful of what they say and to whom they say it. In other words, discussion about frustrations and criticisms should be handled carefully and in private. Leaders who watch what they say teach their employees to treat everyone with respect and to be mindful of how their words can impact those around them in unintended ways.
Teams often function most effectively when they represent diverse opinions, backgrounds, and cultures. However, leaders need to respect what makes each person different and demonstrate how these differences can actually strengthen the team. When leaders highlight the differences between their employees, they encourage others to consider varied points of view and ultimately help to develop better products and services. A closed-minded leader will undermine the benefits of assembling a diverse team.
Honoring people’s sacrifices
No one likes to be taken for granted. When employees go above and beyond the call of duty, they deserve to be recognized. When leaders honor people who have made sacrifices for the company, such as working long hours or taking on an undesirable job, they create an environment that encourages people to try harder. If leaders take their employees for granted, then motivation decreases and the company suffers.
A boss who does not show empathy will quickly alienate all of his or her employees. Leaders need to recognize when people are having difficulties—whether they be professional or personal—and offer support. Knowing how to read emotions can help to create an open environment that encourages communication and ultimately helps teams operate as effectively as possible.
Delivering on promises
Rhetoric has no value without results. Leaders who cannot deliver on their promises set a bad example for their employees, and they could end up losing their trust as a result. The best leaders hold themselves and their employees to a high standard of integrity. At the same time, these individuals understand that unforeseen circumstances can arise and sometimes expectations need to shift. Delivering on promises, then, involves both integrity and communication.
The popular adage that no man is an island holds a great deal of truth in the business world. Leaders who show that it is not only acceptable, but desirable, to reach out for help show their employees that it is a sign of strength and not weakness. Ultimately, products and services benefit from collaboration, and a leader plays a big role in planting the seeds of cooperation.
Resolving conflicts efficiently
Leaders need to approach conflict with a proactive, yet open attitude. Since conflict can destroy projects, it is important to address any friction quickly and allow both sides to express their concerns before coming to a mutually acceptable conclusion. Great leaders are proactive not only with conflicts between employees, but between themselves and others. Passive-aggressive actions can increase friction, so it is important that leaders demonstrate how to resolve conflict in a way that shows respect to all parties involved.
Caring for yourself
One of the greatest challenges in the modern business world is how to achieve life-work balance. Research has shown that productivity actually increases when people take time away from work to care for themselves. Leaders should also follow suit in order to signal to their employees that it is fine for them to do the same. In addition, leaders who take care of themselves have more energy and work more effectively. Employees who are afraid that their work will suffer if they take time off for themselves can learn an important lesson from this fact.
Many people struggle with accepting constructive feedback. Often, leaders are the worst at accepting feedback because they are more accustomed to giving than receiving it. At the same time, leaders cannot expect that the feedback they give to others will be respected and followed if they do not show the same courtesy when it comes to the feedback they receive. While defensiveness can be interpreted as arrogance, accepting constructive feedback demonstrates a willingness to change and improve that can become central to a company’s culture.