Get a group together to discuss leadership and the topic of leading by example will come up. And when it does, most everyone in the room will nod in agreement that we definitely influence others through our actions - especially when we are in a leadership role.
In my time leading healthcare organizations, I’ve found those who best lead by example do so for the organization’s benefit. It’s never about ego.
I've compiled this list of the Top 10 most powerful attributes of “lead by example” behavior I’ve observed over the years (and I work hard to practice these):
- Act Like an Owner. Make decisions on what is good for the business objectives. Don’t become self-serving in your decisions (especially hard decisions).
- Choose What’s Right Over What’s Popular. If you’re overly worried about who is impressed by you rather that what is the right thing to do, you’ve likely lost your way leading.
- Be Proactive. Ask what you can do to help others or to improve a situation that must be addressed. There is always part of the project that you can impact in a positive way if you are willing to simply do the work.
- Check The Mirror. Before you choose to point out the shortcoming or flaws of others - check yourself. Often, how we approach someone else (especially if offering a critique) is more important that what we have to say. Our tone will always distort the underlying message.
- Match Your Message. If you talk about respect but you are chronically late for meetings or blow up at your colleagues before you have all the facts, your actions fall far short of your rhetoric and you simply erode any belief others may have in your ability to authentically lead (or even be trusted).
- Walk in their Shoes. Spend a day living one of your team member’s lives in their role - it will help you build a whole new level of trust with others and provides you with a deeper understanding of how the organization functions.
- Eat Last. Simply put, make sure the individuals in your charge receive any benefits before you get yours.
- Own Your Mistakes. Be accountable when you make a mistake. If you screw up, own it. And own it publicly. It takes both courage and humility to own your errors.
- Have Self Control. Keep your emotions in check. One emotional outburst at a colleague will negatively impact how you are viewed in the long term. Be clear headed - not hot headed.
- Always Be Learning. Be a student of your industry. Read and analyze reports. Study trends. Share what you’re learning with others. Learn to do anything you delegate - so that you know good work, you can share insights, and you have an appreciation for the work of others.
Leading would be much easier if we could say all the right things all the time. But we’re all just human. So while words do matter - what we do and how we act matters far more. Those around us watch our feet more than our lips.