How to Lead By Example as a Manager

For many managers, the idea of leading others through dictation or instruction can seem like a relatively arduous undertaking. Most managers don’t want to feel as though they are babysitting or bossing their team members around, instead they often find it is best to show their employees how they want them to act and how they would prefer that they perform their daily tasks. This all comes down to the often difficult task of having to lead by example.

Although leading by example isn’t exactly a new or revolutionary management style, it is one that many struggle with and one that can be difficult to master. Even the most technical of leaders and those who have all of the certifications they need and all of the rules and regulations memorized, often find that leading by example isn’t as easy as taking a class or memorizing a handbook.

Leading by example not only holds the managers to strict standards but it requires a great deal of interpersonal communication skills. Those who lead by example need to be able to form strong human relationships with those that they need. This can be a challenge for any manager, especially those who aren’t exactly natural born leaders. The good news is, there are several proven strategies that can help any manager, in virtually any field to master the often tricky art of leading by example.

Never Criticize

Those who lead by example need to do their best to completely remove negativity from their lives and their approach to leadership. Negativity can only breed more negativity, so it is essential that it is abolished early on. Complaining or criticizing others can not only prevent team members from getting the motivation that they need, but it can sow these team members that criticism and complaining are acceptable in the workplace.

Managers who feel as though they don’t have the positive, engaged work environment they desire may want to look at their own negativity first. The more positive a manager can be each and every day, the more positive their work community will be.

Give Honest Praise When It’s Due

Avoiding criticism is only half of the battle when it comes to fostering positivity while leading by example. Dedicated managers who want to lead by example know when to give praise and just how important giving honest praise is. Giving employees fake or forced compliments just for the sake of dishing out praise won’t cut it. People can sense and feel sincerity so praise needs to be genuine and honest if leaders want it to really work.

It is important to reinforce positive behavior in a genuine manner so that others continue to act in a positive way. In general, people want to do the right thing, and positive reinforcement keeps them on the path of doing right things more than threats or punishments.

Develop Real Relationships

If managers don’t take the time to develop real relationships with their staff members, then the concept of leading by example will never work. In order for employees to want to emulate their managers, they need to respect them and care about them. This is why it is so important that managers take the time to develop real relationships with their employees so that they can earn that respect. This means getting to know them and being interested in these individuals and what they have to say and working on fostering and building that relationship until there is a sense of trust between the two parties.

This not only means listening to the words that employees have to see, but it means picking up on their emotions and actually paying attention to what they are trying to communicate. Active listening and solid communication skills are essential to building that foundational trust among both parties. Once there is a foundational relationship, employees are much more likely to look to their manager as someone to admire and will be much more inclined to replicate their manager’s behavior.

Get in on the Action

For any manager, getting their hands dirty, so to speak, is one of the best ways to start fostering a better relationship with their employees and to begin really leading by example. When team members see their superiors are doing the work, getting in on the action and really working in the trenches, they are much more likely to look at these superiors for guidance and to mimic their behavior.

It is much more difficult for an employee to follow the example of a superior who sits in their office all day and isn’t aware of how day-to-day operations. Getting in on the action and really being submerged in how the organization functions can only help managers who are trying to relate to their employees and who are trying to set a precedent for how they want their employees to act in the workplace.

Humility is Key

Approaching leadership requires a great sense of humility. This not only means working to relate to employees and to promote a sense of equality among team members, but it means treating all members of the team with a humble attitude.

Managers need to treat others in the way they would want to be treated, never take other for granted and to give people the benefit of the doubt. Even if a team member doesn’t perform up to the manager’s standards, it doesn’t mean that they didn’t try. Most individuals don’t go into their workday planning on doing a bad job. Having perspective and humility can really help managers see the bigger picture and understand where their employees are coming from as they lead other through their own example.

It may not always be easy for managers to lead under the watchful eye of their team members. However, remembering these key tips can make the entire process of leading by example easier and more effective for virtually any individual no matter what type of leadership position they may be in.

These free eBooks will help you to develop the leadership skills needed to help you lead by example.

Active Listening eBook
This eBook describes what active listening is and how it can make you a more effective manager.
ISBN 978-1-62620-963-3 (30 Pages) PDF, Kindle & ePub

Team Building eBook
This eBook explains the core principles of team building that will help you get the best out of any team that you find yourself managing.
ISBN 978-1-62620-987-9 (38 Pages) PDF, Kindle & ePub

Leadership Theories eBook
This eBook explains the academic theories that underpin modern leadership.
ISBN 978-1-62620-778-4 (48 Pages) PDF

Key Points

  • Leading by example not only holds you to strict standards but requires highly developed interpersonal communication skills.
  • Managers who feel as though they don’t have the positive, engaged work environment they desire may want to look at their own negativity first.
  • It is important to reinforce positive behavior in a genuine manner so that others continue to act in a positive way.
  • Managers also need to take the time to develop real relationships with their team members.
  • Active listening and solid communication skills are essential to building that foundational trust among both parties.
  • Having perspective and humility can really help managers see the bigger picture and understand where their employees are coming from as they lead other through their own example.

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