Lead By Example

Having gotten about 80% of the way through my Master’s degree, and having worked for several different businesses over the last 18 years, I’ve developed my own set of standards regarding management. Sadly I’ve found one fundamental ideology I grew up believing seems to have been lost.  My grandfather, and many of the people I respected in my youth understood the idea of leadership by example.  It seems simple, so why is this tenant of leadership not more prevalent?  Is it not as simple when we really make an effort to lead in this manner?   This post will examine that very idea.

  • Be Transparent – Leading by example requires that we are largely transparent in our leadership.  We can’t be sneaky and duplicitous with those we mean to lead or mentor.  People can tell when a leader is hiding something, and this causes distrust and suspicion, which is exactly the opposite of what we want in a leader.  We want to know that they’re honest and have our best interests at heart.  If we as leaders come across as though we’re hiding things, we comepletely destroy our credibility and any trust we’ve built with our people.  Transparency equals trust.
  • Don’t Be A Hypocrite – No one likes the “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality.  If you expect a particular behavior, you must exceed that expectation yourself.  The whole point of being a leader is motivating people to get the job done.  To accomplish this, you must be worthy of their loyalty.  A good leader will have much higher expectations of themselves than they do of their employees.  Hold your employees to a high standard, but hold yourself to a much higher one.
  • Be A Mentor – Being a boss is easy.  My little 4 year old neice can boss people around with the best of them.  But no one needs a boss.  People need leadership in the form of mentorship.  Mentorship is the type of leadership that puts the follower’s needs ahead of the leaders.  The point of mentoring is to tangibly improve the protege, not to give them all the dirty work.  It’s all about honest dealing and honest feedback.  I promise if you lead with these things in mind, not only will you build your employees up, but they will work harder for you and will always remember you fondly.  If none of that is important to you, you should change careers.
  • Want respect? Be respectful!! –  Everyone wants to be respected.  If you have employees that don’t desire your respect, either you are doing a terrible job, or they are.  It’s probably you.  The first part of gaining the respect of your employees is treating them with respect.  If you talk down to your reports they’ll talk about you behind your back.  When you lose the respect of your workers, you can expect them to do the bare minimum necessary to get the job done.   They will not put in any extra effort unless forced to.  Most behavioral issues can be attributed to the system more than the individual.  Just a hint, you as a leader are the system.  Respect breeds respect.
  • Golden Rule – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you!  Think back to when you weren’t the boss.  How did it make you feel when your supervisers condescended to you or treated you like a commodity?  Are you doing the same thing to your employees?  If so, shame on you.  When you treat your people well they will do a better job for you.  Employees that feel like they are an important part of the company will take ownership of their activities and produce at much higher levels.  When people take ownership of their work, they make fewer mistakes and get more done.  That’s the definition of productivity.

I am sure some of this is remedial to a lot of managers.  However; given I have worked for several managers that were off the charts terrible, I felt this post was warranted.  Even if you’re an exceptional manager, you can and should be striving to improve.  Just remember, your job is to put your employees in a position to succeed, not to throw up a bunch of road blocks to success.  Instead of being a block, be a mentor.  After all, their success is your success.

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