How to lead by example.

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.


"A leader is someone you will follow to a place you would not go by yourself." - Joel Barker

There are essential rules to keep in mind when you are trying to become an effective leader. One of the most important is that you should always lead by example. In other words, do not adopt the do as I say, not as I do mentality, you need to become a shining example of the kind of work you want your team to conduct and avoid coming across as a hypocrite. 

So how exactly do you achieve this? Let us look. 

Stay calm and collected. One of the most important ways to lead by example is to stay calm and collected. Be enthusiastic about what you are doing, and make clear that you care. But do not panic when a deadline is approaching and you do not have the work done. 

Why is this so important? 

Because emotions are contagious. And especially when you are in charge, you will function as a barometer for your team. And their stress levels will always be heavily influenced by yours. If you want them to keep calm and continue, you must do that first. Never ask someone to do something you would not do yourself. Leading by example is not just a matter of acting correctly. It is also a case of proving that you are willing and able to do everything you are asking your team to do. The most obvious example would be working late in an office or avoiding taking a vacation on a particular day. If you have one rule for your team and another for yourself, you will not look like a collaborator. It will come across that you are only out for yourself.

Guess what? When you are out for yourself, your team will follow suit and act the same way. Do not blame a higher-up. 

Sometimes, being a leader means NOT shifting blame; you get told by the CEO that you need to meet a specific target, even if that means working late. And then it is your job to pass that charming news on to your team. What's tempting to do at this point is to complain and rebel. You want your team to like you. And so, you want them to know that this order did not come from you. The clear answer, complain about a higher-up and let the team know you are on their side. Except all you are doing here is setting a precedent for rebellion and putting everyone in a bad mood. 

Be professional and worry less about being liked.

Being a Manager is about getting results, helping your team grow while you win “battles," and motivating onward. The team has to accept these conditions personally. You are not a clown or comedian. You are not the buddy everyone wished they had. You are a manager, and there is a fine line between being liked and being a problem for the company. See those on your team as humans, more than their jobs. But, when the rubber meets the road, results must be completed no matter who likes who or what funny joke was said to win over favor. Results and being human can be a balancing act, and as a Manager, you are entrusted to do both in the realm of expectations of that particular culture of the company.

When quarterly reviews come or annual tempter checks, let them be honest and don't hold back either. It is better, to be frank, have it out, and then know your team is open than to lead in fear, not letting them safely state their feelings (whether they are real or not). They are fundamental to them at the time, and only good leaders will lead by example, make a haven, and give them what they need when they need it. Even if it is to clear the air, let out frustration, and get through a difficult time. We are all human, fall short, and good leaders let it happen. Then, the leader picks their people up, so the team will do the same for them when the leader falls.