Welcome to the first of an ongoing discussion on leadership. When considering titles for this Blog, “Leading By Example” intrigued me. Throughout my career, either as an individual contributor or senior leader, I have repeatedly heard this expression. It can mean many things to many people.
I always found it fascinating that as I interviewed people for positions and asked them about their leadership style, more often than not I would hear, “I lead by example.” I learned to ask, “What does this mean?” Typically, the response was “I work hard and like to produce quality work.” But these are not examples of leadership. These can certainly be positive traits, but not examples.
It is worthwhile to delve into what does “leading by example” really mean?? What type of examples are you setting for others to follow? Are you demonstrating positive or negative leadership for others to imitate? How do you know?
For example, let’s say as a leader you like to work hard and that translates into 60-70-hour work weeks. I’ve seen many leaders do this. Is it a good example of leadership? Under some circumstances the answer may be yes, and in many other circumstances, the answer is no. The people you lead may see your long work weeks and begin to think the only way they can continue to progress in the organization is to also work 60-70 hours per week.
Even if they don’t actually have enough work to keep busy during a 40-hour work week, their work habits may begin a subtle shift and tasks/ projects may soon start to take longer in an effort to emulating the boss’ behavior. This situation is one where leading by example can be detrimental to the work-life balance of your organization’s most precious resources: its people.
Discerning what is and isn’t effective leadership is an extremely important subject. This blog will continue delving deeper into what leadership by example really means and how to recognize real leadership examples you are setting for others.
I also encourage you to weigh in on these leadership discussions. Post comments and we will journey through this dialogue together. Whether you are currently a leader or an aspiring one, we will discuss some of the most important aspects of leadership and how you can implement these in the workplace.
Look for part two of this discussion next week!