I have recently read an article about the art of leading by example. Leading by example is something great – in theory. In this blog entry, I would like to discuss the issue of what this means in an organization and how it is a key to protect your coworkers by a certain standard.
Personification of structure
Let us say, there is an issue. Your coworker might know how to deal with the issue because he or she is experienced enough. However, the issue might be too big. What are the thoughts of the coworker?
Typical mindesets could be “I cannot do it”, “I do not have a clue”,”Where shall I go?”. In the end, your employee will turn to you for advise and here it starts. Because the employee does not have to have a physical speak to you in best case scenarios. He just needs to think about what his leader would do. This is the ultimative trick: Put the example of your leading style in the head of your employees. It gives structure and minimizes effort for you because your employees will already suggests methods that please your preferrations anyways.
However, to introduce the pattern of your structured personification in the employee’s mind, you need to establish personal contact and interaction. The people have simply to know you and understand you. On the other side, if you have no contact and are a bad communicator, you will not achieve leading by example. Even if you show day in day out how the examples are done – if noone knows, they cannot learn.
The power of examples
One of the major situations to show a leading by example style, is when there are issues with no obvious methods for solutions. Then, you can show off, how you can lead by example. If a coworker comes to you and says “I have a problem”, you instinctively have to ask “how can I help”. Be open minded. Then, keep your cool while the problem is described and show a sporty character about this issue: “It is a challenge, not a problem.” The positive attitude will help your employee to have a first glimpse of hope.
The next step is to disect the problem into smaller, managable issues and give an order or priority for them. Here, you can ask yourself where you can help with other ressources and if you can even do one or to smaller tasks to support or if even some tasks are not worth putting time in. This is called “taking responsibility”.
By showing how to tackle big issues, you give confidence and direction. This is so important in an unfamiliar and ever changing world. So, integrity is a key feature for you as a leader. Being your ownself is your sole asset, that you have to keep at any time, anywhere.
If a similar issue occurs from now on, your employee might not be able to disect as structured as it is necessary, but maybe he or she did the first step already for a rough seperation into smaller problems and will give already solutions how to tackle them with options and preferred choices.
Missing leadership structure
If leadership is missing in your company, you will see at least one of the following behaviours in the system:
- No alignment: People, teams or other organizational structures work against each other or doing the same thing multiple times in parallel
- No examples: Employees are unsure of how issues have to be solved and request superiors’ answers regularly on a very high-level
- Redirection of responsibility: Superiors are asking how you (!) will solve their problems
- Decisions by fear: Fear is the worst advisor, still decisions are taken by predominarly the fear of your superiors
- Carelessness: Superiors never ask how they can help
Introducing the opposite of this list to your team will directly help to boost efficiency. Make team meetings. Show how you would solve the problems. Be aware of what your team is doing. Do not be afraid. Take care. Just lead by example.