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The top 8 ways to lead by example


Good leaders must lead by example. When the actions of leaders are in alignment with what they say (“Walking the Talk”), they become people that inspire others to want to follow them. When leaders say one thing but do another, they erode trust, a critical element of productive leadership. When people are cynical and distrustful, they will never give you their best at work and leading them gets more challenging as a result.

There are many ways leaders can set an example to others, but here are 8 of those ways.

1. Take responsibility. Blame costs you your credibility, keeps team members on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real growth. It detracts from the focus of your team as people turn their attention to covering their backs so to not get blamed for mistakes. When people are focused on protecting themselves, it takes energy and attention away from delivering great results.

2. Be truthful. Inaccurate representation affects everyone. Being truthful, even when it is feels risky, creates trust and good will with people. It’s a common misconception amongst leaders that they should have all the answers and be infallible. But guess what? Your team doesn’t expect you to be perfect. If you find you have a tendency to bend the truth, spend time exploring why. Are you feeling threatened? What is the cost of being less than truthful?

3. Be courageous. When times are tough people respect and follow leaders who step up to the challenges. Take the lead in taking calculated risks that demonstrate commitment to the purpose and strategies of your business.

4. Acknowledge failure. Using failure or setback as a learning opportunity is a powerful example to people. It makes it OK for your team to do the same and defines failure as part of the process of innovation. Conversely, if you never acknowledge failures, the people around you may not be comfortable admitting it when things are not going well.

5. Be persistent. Setbacks happen to every business, every team and every leader. Role model how to deal with setbacks by reviewing progress and trying a different tack. In doing this you will demonstrate to your team that obstacles don’t mean giving up.

6. Create solutions. Don’t dwell on problems but move into defining the solutions. Don’t be the first to offer up solutions, but ask thoughtful questions of your team to draw out their insights and ideas. When you are a leader, offering your solutions first will often inhibit other ideas.

7. Listen. Following on from the above tip; ask questions and really listen to what people have to say. Minimize distractions, put your phone down, close the office door. Seek to understand by paraphrasing, asking insightful questions and not only will you receive valuable insights, but you create a climate that encourages healthy dialogue.

8. Delegate more. Empower people, give them stretch assignments, develop and grow them. Encourage an atmosphere in which people can focus on their core strengths, and then reward and recognise their achievements.

Rosalind Cardinal is The Leadership Alchemist and Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, an Australian consultancy, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.

Ros is a solutions and results oriented facilitator and coach, with a career in the Human Resources and Organisational Development field spanning more than 25 years.  Ros brings an energetic and proactive approach combined with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Her expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, organisational behaviour, employee engagement and motivation, strategic direction and management.

Visit to pick up your complimentary copy of Ros’ e-guide to Leading Change. Written for managers who are tasked with leading organisational change, the guide presents practical steps to leading successful change.

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2 replies on “The top 8 ways to lead by example”

Brilliant article and I agree with every single one of them. I’ve worked with a lot of so called ‘leaders’ yet they have hardly any of these points. I think some people believe they lead but in almost all the cases they don’t, they just think they do. Listening is so important and being authentic, there has to be trust and a mutual belief in the same thing. Think of people like Nelson Mandela and J F Kennedy, they believed in what they wanted to change and because of that people followed. For me a great leader needs to be real and honest, and above all they need to communicate their beliefs well. Thanks for this a great post 🙂

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