In my last post, we began exploring what leading by example really means. It can be both positive and negative and it is important to discern where you are on that continuum. If you believe in leading by example, your primary leadership tool needs to be a mirror. This is how you can see what impact your leadership is having on your organization., and how you can you receive valuable realistic feedback. As leaders, we all tend to develop blind spots. The longer we are in any given situation, the more likely we will lose the ability to see what’s really happening around us.
Research has shown the higher you progress in an organization, the less access you have to the truth. Even if you promote a culture that values honest feedback it is still difficult to see a complete picture of your leadership style’s impact on your organization.
What makes this so important? As a leader, you are measured by your ability to deliver results. There are many ways to accomplish this, and not all of them are constructive. The media is littered with stories of leaders at all levels of companies who have delivered phenomenal results and yet are forced to step down in disgrace because of their leadership style. You should be on alert for potential leadership derailers. Derailers are flaws in leadership styles that will eventually lead to failure.
The inability to delegate is a common derailer. For example, if you are a leader that cannot delegate, eventually you will not be capable of getting the work done by yourself, leaving gaps in workflow and stunting progress and outcomes. By not delegating you will also lose the opportunity to train and develop the next generation of future leaders—a valuable commodity in any organization.
Just as important is your personal impact on the people you lead, which can be profound. These are real human beings with real needs. It cascades throughout their lives. If you convey a successful image but lack integrity, your followers will tend to adopt that as a barometer for success, even if unconsciously. As those you lead begin to imitate and emulate your characteristics, including the negative ones, this can permeate throughout their lives, sometimes even manifesting at home. Their family members may see changes in behavior and find it unacceptable. Is this the impact you want to have? Is this how you want to lead by example?
If you find this scenario familiar, you may be asking what should you do? In my next post we will discuss concrete steps you should take to uncover and recognize the example you are setting as a leader in your organization.