lead by example
A strong factor of both job satisfaction and team performance is the demonstration of idealized influence. Employees consistently rank this as one of the most important job satisfiers – those who experience themselves and others leading by example are creating an idealized influence in the workplace. As leaders, it is important to show those around us that we understand and appreciate the work performed together and that we are willing to contribute on all levels, at any time.
Leading by example reinforces our mission, vision, and values while building strong connections among colleagues. Although the benefits may not be visible at all levels, a lack of leading by example is very apparent and detrimental. Good leaders show others that they understand and care about the work going on around them. This may be a leadership characteristic that is most prone to success or failure. Abraham Lincoln once said that if you want to test someone’s character, you should give them power. Our actions will impress upon others more than we will likely be aware, and as leaders it will make those actions even more important.
- Listen and be present. Our level of authenticity is noticed and appreciated on many levels. Leading by example means doing so through our cognitive, emotional, and physical presence. We must always be aware of our body language. Look people in the eye when communicating, put down your phone, and continually acknowledge others with meaning. Pay attention and genuinely strive to understand context. Avoid interrupting others and share airtime. Using tactics such as occasionally paraphrasing important parts of a conversation or repeating important terms will show that we are paying attention. This will keep us engaged and they will sense that sincerity.
- Fix small problems before they become big problems. Seldom do problems solve themselves or simply go away. Even if they do go away, any ignorance or avoidance of the issue will be noticed, even if on a subconscious level. A leader who avoids problems will erode trust and create frustration and helplessness among a team.
- Help to identify root causes and possible solutions. Many people are good at discovering problems, but few are gifted and understanding the cause of the problem. The value of a mechanic is not to tell you that something is broken, but rather to help fix it. Individuals need the ability to play a variety of roles in problem solving situations, including being the "devil's advocate". However, we must also demonstrate an ability to contribute towards finding solutions and being positive. When we just identify the problem with no solutions, we have created a "problem bomb" which we then expect others to diffuse. This is exhausting for others and will make you appear negative or uncooperative.
- Do not gossip. This will ultimately be a greater reflection on gossiper, than those that are gossiped about. Gossiping is by nature negative and often hurtful, and will erode ones trustworthiness. Other people will soon begin to wonder what you say about them when they are not present. Nobody ever got taller by making somebody else feel smaller. There is no reason to tarnish a reputation – yours, mine, or theirs.
- Be on time. This includes being on time for work meetings, medical appointments, dates, and holidays. When you are consistently late, it shows others that we do not value their time. Even worse, it may signal to another that our time is more important than their time. Punctuality is a lost virtue, and will be strongly admired.
- Demonstrate the ability to manage ambiguity. Most people struggle with plot holes and uncertainty. We have tendencies to fill in gaps that exist within information or data sets with whatever is convenient or pleases us (often unaware of our biases). We should acknowledge ambiguity and chart a path for the team to gather real information, so we avoid filling in gaps or spiraling into speculation. The best leaders are able to accept ambiguity and even thrive under those circumstances. Ambiguity requires heuristic problem-solving capabilities that allows us to tap into our creative side. Resist rejecting ambiguity as a problem, and embrace it as an opportunity, that naïve leaders tend to avoid.
- Avoid absolutist or black-and-white thinking. The wiser you are, the grayer the world becomes. The frequent use of absolutisms (i.e. always, never, everybody, nobody) will distract us from actual data, or the absence thereof. Often times ones use of these terms may be that their emotions regarding the topic have overshadowed objectivity. There is a big difference between “always” and “90%”. We should not allow insufficient analysis be simplified by absolutisms.
- Language and words shape how we behave. The words we use each day and how we use them shape the impression that others have about us. Whether we use big words or small words, or dirty words or clean words, they are a reflection of how we think. The verbal habits we develop also have an influence on how we behave. We should use words appropriately and in context while avoiding using words that we do not understand. This can be either highly embarrassing for you, or condescending to another. There are nearly 7,000 languages spoken throughout the world, and each has different linguistic rules and patterns. Specific words translated to another language may actually carry different meaning. A “title” in the US often refers to the name of one’s job, whereas “title” in the United Kingdom may refer to one’s marital status. Speak wisely and with careful intent.