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3 Powerful Ways To Lead By Example At Work

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3 Powerful Ways To Lead By Example At Work

The workplace is our modern-day version of an adult playground, full of many different people, personalities, and perceptions. Each person brings a unique edge to the office that collectively creates a diverse array of skill sets that can benefit the company. In order to bring everyone together, a leader must lead by example.

How do we develop systems and procedures to bring out each player’s best in the corporate playground? By creating practical leadership principles and habits of execution.

Leadership will always be the bread and butter of business because it centers us around a common theme and mission. Much like the philosophy of the armed forces and Navy Seals[1], leaders are made, not born. The same is true in business.

Leaders aren’t inherently any different from those they lead regarding their physiology or body composition. Still, they do possess other characteristics and habits that may not be apparent to the naked eye.

Leaders don’t need to have a leadership title to be leaders. Every employee of a company should have to think and act like a leader in some way, shape, or form. So what separates the good leaders from the great leaders?

Great leaders lead by example.

The classic “monkey see monkey do” mentality refers to both the primitive brain structures that help us form daily habits and the specific neuronal networks in the brain—mirror neurons[2]—that allow us to observe others’ activity. When we watch others perform tasks, these neuronal systems become active and fire similar brain regions in our brains that would be needed to perform similar tasks and actions.

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Actions will always speak louder than words in the workplace because actions lead to execution and results. Knowledge is useless without application, which is why authentic leaders choose to lead with their actions and not just their words.

1. Bring the Best Version of Yourself

To get the best out of your people, you need to get the best out of yourself first. The doctor who tells the patient to stop smoking right after they stepped out of the office for a cigarette is not only a hypocrite; they’re also setting a poor example for their patient to follow.

Anyone who is a parent knows how this equation plays out in the long run with raising children[3]. The things you tell your kids not to do end up becoming a habit of theirs because they’re too busy watching you do it while avoiding what you told them not to do.

The same is true for leaders in the workplace. If you expect your employees to be on time, ready to go, and at work early, you better be willing to set the example for them. Not just once, but repeatedly over time. Practicing what you preach will build trust and benefit company culture.

These coveted office relationships built out of trust and respect are reciprocally advantageous for the overall health and well being of the respective parties. A recent Gallup poll uncovered evidence suggesting direct reports experience a 15% greater chance of thriving and overall improved well-being due to their immediate supervisors having higher levels of well being[4].

Company culture is continuously sliding on a spectrum due to the continually evolving array of actions, outcomes, and emotions mixed into a business setting. This concept is vital for a multitude of reasons.

Leaders Should Set the Example

It’s the leader’s responsibility to set an example for their coworkers. If you’ve ever been in a situation where someone tells you one thing and does the complete opposite, you’ve experienced this disconnect. It’s unsettling at best and subsequently causes you to lose trust in that individual.

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Change Starts With Leaders

Leaders must be the change they wish to see in their organization and business. Company initiatives may sound great in theory, but they rarely take hold and grow if people don’t support it through taking action. Checking a box is far more comfortable than changing behaviors.

Leaders Motivate Others to Improve

When you show changes through your actions, it’s far easier for your team members and coworkers to do the same. Improved collaboration and communication through teamwork is estimated to increase employee productivity by nearly 20-25%[5].

If teamwork can genuinely make the dream work, leaders of the future need to realize the importance of integration, taking action, and supporting your company initiatives through high-level communication.

2. Be an Effective Communicator

Communication is the foundation for success in business and life. Nothing noteworthy gets done without effective communication, but not all communication is created equally.

Humans are social animals. There’s no way to argue around it, which is why communication and honest conversation can be one of the most efficient ways to lead your people and business to success.

Communication is so much more than the words we use[6]. It’s how we use our bodies and make facial expressions, which can hide in the words we say and choose not to say.

Choosing not to say something is also a decision made, which could have dire consequences for those who listen well enough to pick up on it. True leaders listen far more than they speak, but they listen to understand and find ways to solve problems with follow-up comments and questions, which is a great way to lead by example.

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High-level leaders understand the importance of communication, pair it together with associated soft skills of listening intentionally, asking questions, and using simple gestures for approval, such as a head nod or smile.

In a world full of digital distractions, chatbots, online messaging, and web-based communication, we lose the humanistic communication component. For many, this lack of human connection can change the culture of the office.

Effective communicators know the difficulties in these practices, as there will always be conversations that need to happen that are uncomfortable, concerning, and confrontational in nature. Real leaders must be willing to toss their ego aside to have these conversations because they know the temporary struggle is worth the long term outcomes of success and improved outcomes.

Leaders who cannot have difficult conversations or share their real opinions on matters will be accomplices to the corporation’s slow bleed and gradual degradation. The corporate culture of the 21st century won’t have time to tolerate those who beat around the bush and use ineffective means of communication. These individuals will be left behind and have no chance to find their way back.

3. Show Empathy

Emotional intelligence is arguably one of the most important traits for leaders to possess in the 21st-century workplace. It’s a guiding factor for long-term success[7] and building relationships, among many other factors.

One of the greatest strengths of emotional intelligence is the ability to show empathy towards your colleagues, coworkers, and office personnel, so make it an integral part of your practice when you lead by example.

Placing yourself in someone else’s shoes to understand their perspective isn’t easy, but it’s one of the quickest ways to build trust and show that you care. It’s also a great way to build long-term relationships that can improve company culture[8].

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Skills strengthened by empathy to lead by example

    Leaders who show empathy set the tone for future interactions and conversations, especially with the hard conversations that are inevitable in the workplace[9]. Over 90% of HR professionals, CEO’s, and employees believe empathy is an essential factor in the proper functioning of a workplace[10]. In fact, it’s so important that 8 in 10 employees stated that they are willing to leave a job or employer who isn’t empathetic[11].

    Empathy in the workplace can also significantly improve the company’s overall health and well-being[12], with medical institutions and hospitals now teaching medical professionals how to use empathy in the clinic to enhance their patient outcomes. And since we can improve[13] and grow our ability to use empathy, it’s a skill that should continuously be groomed and worked on overtime.

    The Bottom Line

    As a leader, your actions and words are always under the microscope. The team members who depend on you for guidance and execution seek this constant feedback. While actions will always speak louder than words, your words and communication style need to be in alignment with what you do as you lead by example.

    While it may seem trivial, consistently coming up short with actions and words will lead to more significant problems down the road as colleagues lose trust in your abilities to fulfill your duties.

    Trust and respect can’t be demanded; they must be earned, especially in the workplace. Titles and roles can only carry your responsibilities so far, which means that it is up to you to take these steps and implement them into your daily habits.

    Consistency is the easiest way to build your reputation as a leader who can execute on tasks, develop your team, and grow your company’s platform.

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    More on How to Lead by Example

    Featured photo credit: CoWomen via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Dr. Erik Reis

    Peak-Performance Leadership Consultant

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2022

    How to Use Travel Time Effectively

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    How to Use Travel Time Effectively

    Most of us associate travel and time with what we’re going to do one we get to our destination. Planning and mapping out what to do once you arrive can certainly make for a more pleasurable vacation, but there are things you can do while you are on your way that can make it even better.

    Sure, you can plan for the things you’re going to do on your vacation while you are travelling en route – but what about making use of that time for other things that you don’t usually do when you’re at home? You don’t need to have your gadgets with you to do it, and you can really connect with yourself if you take the time to manage your life while heading towards your vacation destination.

    Here are some great tips to help you with your time management while you travel, some of which are more conventional than others. Nonetheless, you can find out what works best for you and apply them accordingly depending on when and how you are travelling.

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    1. Take Your Time Getting There

    As I write this, I’m on a flight to San Francisco. Flying is the fastest way to get from place to place, and for many people it’s really the only way to travel.

    But I’ve often taken the train or ferry on trips so that I have extra time without distraction to get more done. I’m not worrying about navigation or lack of space to do what I want to do. Instead I’m able to focus on getting stuff done during the time I’ve got without feeling rushed. For example, when I took the train from Vancouver to Portland, it was an eight hour trip and I managed to get a ton of writing done and closed a lot of open loops. It also was less expensive than flying, which was a bonus.

    Sometimes taking the long way to get somewhere on vacation can be the best thing for you to get somewhere with your life.

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    2. Go Gadget-Free

    This is going to be a tough one for a lot of you. But why do you need to bring your gadgets with you when you go on vacation? It isn’t be a bad idea to leave all but one of them behind, and only pull out that one when you absolutely need to do so. In some countries, you’d be wise to be discreet with them anyway since flaunting them in front of those that are less fortunate than you isn’t a good practice. While it may not seem like flaunting to you, in different cultures it can definitely come across that way.

    If you can’t go gadget-free, then at least go Internet-free. If you use a task management app that requires syncing across your multiple devices to be effective, remember that if you only have the one device with you then it can be the “master device” for the time being and will store your data locally anyway. Just sync up when you get home.

    3. Reflect and Prepare

    Finally, going on any sort of excursion gives you the perfect opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been. The fact you have removed yourself from where you usually are can give you a perspective that you simply can’t get when you’re at home. You may want to journal your thoughts during this time – and by taking more time to get to your destination you’ll have more time to dig deeper into it.

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    After a period of reflection – however long that happens to be – you can then begin to not only prepare for the rest of your travels, you can prepare for the rest of what happens afterward. The reflection period is important, though. You need to really know where you’ve been in order to properly look at where you want to be. Time away from things gives you that chance.

    Conclusion

    Traveling isn’t always about where you’re going and how quickly you can get there. In fact, it’s rarely about that at all.

    More often it’s where you’re at in your head that will dictate how much you benefit from traveling. So don’t just go somewhere fast. Instead, take your time on the way there and take the time to connect with not only where you are but who are while you’re there.

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    If you do that, you’ll have a better chance to be who you want to be when you leave.

    Featured photo credit: bruce mars via unsplash.com

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