8 Positive Ways To Lead by Example in the Workplace

Updated June 30, 2023

A workplace can benefit from having influential leaders in place to guide employees. As a leader, your team looks to you for inspiration, encouragement and direction. You can provide this by leading by example and building a culture of trust and accountability. 

In this article, we discuss what it means to lead by positive example, the benefits you can expect and ways you can lead by example in the workplace.

Related: 10 Effective Leadership Skills To Lead a Team

What does it mean to lead by example?

Leading by example means guiding others through your behaviors and inspiring them to do the same as you. It is a leadership style—servant leadership—where you model the behavior you want to see in your team.

When you lead by example, you provide a path to direct others so that everyone works toward a goal with the same purpose. A leader makes it natural for people to feel like they want to do the best for the organization they work for. Leading by example can accomplish this and create a workplace filled with trust, confidence and purpose.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples

An illustration showing two people sitting at a table, with a whiteboard in the background with a circle and text boxes coming from the circle, listing eight ways to lead by example: 1. Build trust, 2. Come to work with energy, 3. Work with your team, 4. Follow the rules, 5. Trust your team, 6. Commit to growth, 7. Watch your actions and 8. Listen to others.

Benefits of leading by example in the workplace

Many benefits come from leading by example whether you're an executive or a junior associate. The benefits of having someone—or multiple people—in the workplace who lead by example include:

More respect and trust

Someone who leads by example can expect to receive respect from their superiors, people who work alongside them and their employees. They are able to:

  • Inspire confidence in others

  • Understand the workplace and how everyone works together

  • Stick to their word and actively seek solutions to problems

  • Form a workplace culture that celebrates everyone's skill set

  • Involve every member of the team in projects or important decisions

Related: What Is Respect in the Workplace?

Higher productivity

When you lead by example, your team will soon follow, working just as hard and accomplishing just as much as you to do their part for the organization. They will strive to make their team proud and not let anyone down by performing below their abilities.

Loyal employees

Leading by example inspires those around you to enjoy being part of the team and a company employee. They want to enjoy the people they work with, including their leader. Satisfied employees have lower absenteeism, are more positive, contribute more to discussions, volunteer to take on more projects or help a coworker.

Commitment to the organization

When there is positive leadership, employees are generally more committed to the company. They strive to help achieve its goals, develop a team mentality and work to support the company's mission, purpose and values. When a leader leads by example and works alongside their team, they inspires others to do the same.

Benchmark standards

A leader's actions set the standard for behavior in the workplace. How you act can determine how team members respond. For example, if you're always on time for meetings, your team will be more likely to do the same. On the other hand, if you don't communicate with your employees, you may notice the workplace becomes siloed and non-collaborative.

Four employees talk to each other while seated in a circle.

8 ways to lead by example in the workplace

How you lead can help create a productive and enjoyable workplace where all team members feel valued and do what's necessary to help the group succeed. Consider these actions to lead your team by example:

1. Follow through on your promises

One of the best ways to lead by example is by building trust. A good 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 they are more willing to ask questions, take on extra responsibilities and be more engaged team members. If an employee feels they can't trust their leader to follow through, they may feel disengaged and be unproductive.

Related: How to Maintain Professional Integrity in the Workplace

2. Come to work with energy

If you want to lead by example, come to work with a positive attitude and productive energy that translates to increased momentum and motivation as you go about your daily tasks. Your team will pick up on your attitude and naturally mirror it, resulting in a productive, supportive team that exhibits a great approach to getting the job done.

Related: How Not To Be Tired at Work (With Tips for Building Energy)

3. Work alongside your team

The most effective leaders work alongside their teams. Even if you have an office, spend a lot of time outside of it so your employees feel you're an integral part of the team. The more you work with them, the more you'll understand their skills, tasks and projects This will help you lead better, answer their questions and guide them to success.

If you work closely with your team, you'll build trust and boost team morale. Another benefit of working alongside your team is that you'll have a more intimate knowledge of any struggles. You can then work on solutions to make their job better.

Related: The Importance of Teamwork (Plus 11 Ways a Team Benefits From It)

4. Follow the rules

If you want your team to function at its best and be a place where everyone is accountable for their work, consider establishing rules. Rules don't have to be negative—they can help clarify expectations and responsibilities. To lead by example, follow the rules you've set and those of the organization. If you do, your team is less likely to bend or break them and instead help the workplace function more cohesively.

Read more: Improving Accountability in the Workplace

5. Trust your team

Start by making sure your team understands the company's vision, values and goals and how they play into its success. Remember that every employee is hired for a reason, and each brings a particular skill set and experience to the role. If you trust your team to do their work well, you'll not only gain their respect but also serve as an inspiration to other leaders in the workplace.

Related: Why Trust Matters in the Workplace (Plus Tips for Building It)

6. Attend workshops and training

Even leaders have room to grow. It's important to show your team that you know you don't have all the answers, but you're committed to gaining the knowledge, education and insight to excel in your role. This will help them trust your leadership and feel inspired to find similar opportunities—like conferences and networking events—for themselves.

Related: Adopting Lifelong Learning: Definition, Benefits and Tips

7. Listen to others

Listen to your employees, fellow managers and even the leaders you report to. Everyone has something of value to add to a conversation. Plus, listening to your team shows you respect them as people and for the work they do, and you want to know more about them so you can lead effectively. Interact with them in a meaningful way so they feel confident in your abilities and are comfortable coming to you about any issues. The more you listen, the more you learn.

Related: Improve Your Listening in the Workplace (With Tips)

8. Watch what you say and do

Influential leaders know their words and actions are up for interpretation. If you're leading by example, be aware of how your team could interpret what you say and do. Even in stressful work situations, try to remain supportive of your team and offer words of encouragement.

Related: 9 Ways To Help and Support Colleagues at Work

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