A workplace can benefit from having effective leaders in place to guide employees. As a leader, your team is looking to you for inspiration, encouragement and direction. You can provide this to your team by leading by example and building a culture of trust and accountability. In this article, we discuss what it means to lead by example, the benefits you can expect and ways you can lead by example in the workplace.
What does it mean to lead by example?
Leading by example means you're guiding others through your behaviors and inspiring them to do the same as you. When you lead by example, you provide a path to direct others down so that everyone is working toward a common goal with the same purpose.
A leader makes it natural for people to feel like they want to do the best they can for the organization they work for. When you lead by example, you can accomplish this and have a workplace that's full of trust, confidence and purpose.
Read more: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples
Benefits of leading by example in the workplace
Remember that while most leaders are in a position of authority, you don't have to be to display leadership qualities or to lead others around you by example. There are many benefits that come from having leadership in place, no matter if 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. Superiors see them as someone who can lead a team and inspire confidence in their work. Coworkers and employees see someone who leads by example as having the ability to truly understand the workplace and how everyone works together. When you have the respect of the people you work with, you become a team on a common mission.
A leader also earns trust from their team if they are credible, stick to their word and actively seek solutions to any problems in the workplace. Many times, respect and trust go together, as employees respect how you're leading and trust your actions and words because of it.
When a leader gets the respect and trust of their team, it's also more likely that teammates will respect and trust each other. Leaders are one foundation of an effective workforce, and it's frequently because of them that a culture is formed that celebrates respecting and trusting the people you work with. A leader can develop this by doing things like publicly celebrating everyone's skill set and involving every member of the team in projects or important decisions.
Read more: What Is Respect in the Workplace?
Leading by example can also lead to high productivity. When you lead by example, your team will soon follow, working just as hard and accomplishing just as much to do their part for the organization. There tends to be a deeper desire to make their team proud and not let anyone down by performing below your abilities. A leader inspires others to develop efficient and effective processes with which they can produce work that meets standards and is delivered on time.
Even if an employee enjoys their work, they also want to enjoy the people they work with, including their leader. Leading by example means you're inspiring those around you, which should make them happy to be a part of the team and employed by the company. This usually results in low employee turnover and the ability to retain and recruit top talent, so the office staff has a wide range of skills and is better able to produce at its best.
Loyal and happy employees also have lower absenteeism, are more positive, contribute more to group discussions, volunteer to take on more projects or to help a coworker and speak highly of their organization to friends, family and neighbors.
Commitment to the organization
When there is a fair amount of leadership in an organization, the staff is generally more committed to the company. They strive to help the organization achieve its goals, develop more of a team mentality and want to come up with strategies and a plan to support the company's mission, purpose and values. When a leader leads by example by working alongside their team, it inspires others to do the same.
The actions of a leader set the standard for acceptable and desired behavior in the workplace. How a leader acts can determine how members of the team act as a response. What leadership deems acceptable, whether good or poor practices, becomes what employees believe they can do. For example, if a leader is always on time for meetings, then employees should come to understand that this practice is expected of them. On the other hand, if you're a leader who doesn't communicate with your employees, you may notice that the workplace becomes siloed and non-collaborative.
Ways to lead by example in the workplace
In order to be an effective leader, you'll want to lead by example. Doing so should 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. Consider these actions to lead your team by example:
Follow through on your promises
One of the greatest ways to lead 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. If an employee feels that they can't trust their leader to follow through, they may feel disengaged and be unproductive.
Come to work with energy
If you want to lead by example, consider coming 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 should 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.
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'll have about their individual skills, tasks and projects that they're working on which will help you lead better, answer their questions and guide them to success.
If you work closely with your team, you'll build trust with them 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 the solutions they need to make their job better.
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 don't have to be a negative thing — in fact, they can provide a lot of clarification around expectations and responsibilities. To lead by example, follow the rules you've set and the rules of the organization. If you do, your team is less likely to bend or break the rules, which helps the workplace function more cohesively.
Read more: Improving Accountability in the Workplace
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 organization's success. Remember that every employee was hired 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 should not only gain their respect but also serve as an inspiration to other leaders in the workplace.
Attend workshops and training sessions
Even leaders still have room to grow. It's important to show your team that you realize you don't have all the answers, but that you are committed to gaining the knowledge, education and insight you need to excel in your role. This will help them trust your leadership and also feel inspired to find similar opportunities for themselves, like conferences and networking events.
Listen to your employees, fellow leaders at your organization and even the leaders you report to. Everyone has something of value to add to a conversation. Plus, listening to your team shows them you respect them as people and the work they do, and you want to get 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.
Remain cognizant of your words and actions
You should know that your words and actions are up for interpretation. If you're leading by example, it's important to be cognizant of how your team could interpret what you say and do so that you can be more mindful of your attitude and behaviors. Even in stressful work situations, try to remain supportive of your team and offer words of encouragement.