Lead by Example

When you are a leader, everybody is watching what you are doing and what you are saying. Your behavior will guide the behavior of the other members of your team or the people in your organization. You set the example, and they will follow that example. Albert Schweitzer said, “You must teach men at the school of example, for they will learn at no other.” Marshall Goldsmith, one of the world's top executive coaches, has shown through his work that changing a single behavioral characteristic in a leader can have a deep impact on the behavior of a very large number of people.

Let's examine a few of the characteristics and traits that people will closely observe in their leaders and base their behavior on.

Never Cheat

Never lie or cheat, take shortcuts, or take advantage of your position. Take responsibility for your actions. When you are in a position of power, it may be easy to blame others for poor results. No one will argue with you because people want to keep their jobs. But they will know. They will have observed your behavior, and they will no longer feel it necessary to act with integrity themselves. When a scandal takes down a company such as Enron, it is because the leadership created a culture of cheating in the organization that filtered down to all levels. The expression “The fish stinks from the head down” refers to this top-down effect. If you aren't a role model of integrity and character, you could be sowing the seeds of your company's eventual destruction. If, on the other hand, you never compromise on your integrity, your employees and the other leaders in the organization will go the extra mile to match your integrity and character.

Have the Right Attitude

Leaders generally have a positive and optimistic attitude. They believe strongly in themselves and their organization, and they don't let setbacks or barriers get them down. Attitude goes a long way in overcoming adversity, and one of the best ways of helping your people overcome any problems or hurdles that they may be facing in their jobs is to model your optimism By watching the way in which you deal with adversity, they will find the strength to fight back.

In his bestselling book Learned Optimism, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman used results from 350,000 interviews to prove that successful people are much more optimistic than people who have mediocre or no success. He found that optimism was the defining characteristic of successful people, more than any other personality or behavioral trait. Optimism is important because it focuses your thoughts on what can be done in the future to make things better, not on what happened in the past to make things worse.

Even if, deep inside, you might have some doubts or uncertainties, those doubts must stay hidden from the people who look up to you. The best leaders do not allow themselves the luxury of discussing their doubts or uncertainties with others. There is nothing more demoralizing than to see your leader expressing self-doubt. Not only will self-doubt in a leader hurt morale, but it will also raise a question in people's minds about whether you are up to the task. Once your leadership is questioned, you will lose the trust of your people and you will become an ineffective leader. That is why leading by example is essential to your success as a leader.

Treat Others with Respect

Another element of attitude is the way a leader treats others. People will know how you treat them and will see how you treat their colleagues, their bosses, or even the organization's customers and partners, and they will follow your example. Leaders know that if they are rude to a customer, their people will be rude to customers, and their business will acquire a reputation that will keep customers away. They know that if they do not treat their managers with respect and civility, those managers won't treat their own subordinates with respect and civility, and the business will acquire a reputation for mistreating employees, which will keep the best people away.

Leaders also know that if they act as yes people to their own superiors, such as the board of directors, then they will find themselves surrounded by yes people as well, instead of honest collaborators who will give them the facts they need to help the organization succeed.

How you treat others sets the tone for your team or your organization. As a leader, it is up to you to set the right tone.

Model Good Work Habits

Another example that you must set is in your work habits. The best leaders work hard and work long, and this behavior inspires others to do the same. Leaders who take advantage of their position to come in late and leave early, or who are seen frequently socializing with managers or employees, will find that the productivity of their team, department, or organization becomes lower and lower.

Leaders are excellent role models. They strive to continually set a good example in their behavior and in their conduct. They are aware that others are observing them and are aware of their effect on the morale and conduct of their people. Remember: There are no bad soldiers under a good general.

That's why it is important to ask yourself: “What kind of a company would my company be if everyone in it was just like me?”

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