Leading by Example

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Leaders must lead by example. Leaders are role models. Of course people can, and should, make independent choices and they should not just be blind followers doing whatever the leader does, but the leader’s behavior is a reference point. A leader’s behavior, good and bad, will affect the behavior of others and so leaders need to focus on setting a good example to encourage positive behaviors from the people they lead.

By their own example, leaders need to instil in the people they lead the right values and behaviors. Leaders should not rely on rules and regulations to set down how people should behave. People are contrary beings. If told not to do something there is a temptation to do the opposite. Think of a child who is told not to touch something! Telling people how to behave; threatening them with punishment if they fail to behave in the right way or offering financial incentives for positive behaviors are likely to achieve only short-term success. In the long-term, people need to recognize for themselves why behaving in a certain way has positive results and the leader’s positive example will undoubtedly be a powerful influence.

A leader’s words and actions set the tone for the people he/she leads. A leader is never off duty, his/her behavior is constantly being scrutinized for verbal and non-verbal signals which will be interpreted, commented on and copied. How the leader approaches opportunities and meet challenges actively influences the approach of everyone he/she leads. Leaders need to consistently and persistently behave the right way and then encourage those good behaviors to pervade the whole organization.

If leaders’ behavior is to influence that of the people that they lead, then they must behave in a consistent manner. They need to behave consistently every day in their response to similar situations and in the way that they meet different challenges. They also need to demonstrate consistency between their actions and words. It is no good adopting a ‘do as I say’ philosophy as this will quickly dampen enthusiasm and morale. Why should anyone follow an instruction that the instructor is not following? Leaders must adopt a ‘do as I do’ philosophy, or using a cliché, they must ‘walk the talk.’ Only by maintaining this consistency can leaders hope to embed positive behaviors in their team and create the positive culture that they should be aiming for.


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