What Is Leading By Example?

Do you want your team to achieve better results, or do you want your team to live better lives?

Making the decision to become a highly effective leader, and making the decision to become a leadership resource for the leaders within your organisation tells me a lot about you. This is a huge responsibility to take on, and requires a person with a very strong character.

You will already have your team members following you because they want to, and you have achieved that by building strong relationships with them, and helping them to develop their character.

So, in order for the leaders to follow you because they want to, you need to build strong relationships with them, and help them develop their character too.

Highly effective leaders do not use their title or position to gain power over people, instead they use them as a leverage to help them develop and grow their people, and beyond. Highly effective leaders will purposely follow aspiring leaders, or leaders who are willing to improve, so that they can help them develop.

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With a highly effective leader follows you because they want to, it really does give you the confidence to lead others. You will know this because a highly effective leader is trustworthy, they are authentic, they are transparent, and they have very good intentions.

1. Your Commitment

How committed are you to becoming a highly effective leader? It is not easy at all, in fact it is very uncomfortable, and you will be out of your comfort zone a lot of the time.

I have talked about being comfortable with being uncomfortable in my other resources, and to be a highly effective leader, you really do need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

That is how you are growing. If you are not uncomfortable, then you are not growing, you are static. The more you become comfortable with being uncomfortable, the more your confidence to lead others will increase.

To be able to lead others, and help them raise their leadership level, you must first raise your own leadership level. As a highly effective leader, we work on ourselves every day to keep raising our leadership level, it is a commitment we make and we honour. Are you willing to make that commitment? I hope you are.

As people start learning about highly effective leadership, and what it means to be a highly effective leader, they tend to look outwards at other leaders. They do this and judge what they are learning on leadership against the leaders that they work with, or their senior leaders, and even the leaders of the organisation they work with.

People very rarely look inwards at themselves and judge themselves against what they are learning. Highly effective leaders judge themselves, they do not judge others. You should do the same.

However, even though I am advising you to look inwards, judge yourself against what you are learning, and only be in competition with yourself, it is human nature to look outwards at other leaders. You will do it, and I will do it. It’s just how people are.

2. The Importance Of Our Behaviour

So, if that is the case, with our people constantly looking at us and judging us, we must ensure that what they see is actually what we are teaching them. If we are behaving in a certain way as a leader, but we are teaching our people something different, then we will come across inauthentic, and untrustworthy.

With a lack of trust from our people, we will lose all of our credibility. It is impossible to become a highly effective leader without credibility or trust.

When you are teaching your people leadership, you are teaching them a way to live, not a theory, or a problem that needs to be solved. We cannot teach people a way to live, and then live a completely different way to what we teach. We must practice what we preach.

We must believe in what we teach, and be passionate about what we teach. How you live is what you will be judged on, not what you teach.

When I began teaching leadership, and striving to become a highly effective leader, I needed to make some changes within myself first. I needed to lead by example, and lead myself first before I could lead others. If I said I was going to do something to help another person, then I followed through and did it.

Previously, I had the tendency to let others down. So, that was a huge thing that I needed to change in myself. There were a few other things too. You may want to make similar changes in your life so that you can live what you teach. I will be able to help you with this through my other articles and materials.

You will be teaching people how to build their character, and build relationships with others in order to increase their influence and strive to become a highly effective leader.

3. Building Character

So, you must do no less. In fact, you must do more if you want to set that example for your leaders. I don’t mean you have to live a perfect life. But, you must certainly be working hard every day to live the same way you are teaching others to live.

As you are teaching your people to work on and strengthen their character, you will begin to see weaknesses in their character that you can help them with. What you must not let happen is, your people seeing weaknesses in your character. That will also lose your credibility.

4. Being A Role Model For Your People

As you lead your people by example, you are showing them what highly effective leadership looks like in real life. You are not just teaching the theory of it. As your people see what highly effective leadership looks like, they will have a model that they can follow.

As they begin to model your behaviour, they will start to feel different, people will start behaving differently around them, and they will start to be treated differently. Your example will set a clear direction for your people to go, and they will know that following your lead, will enable them to be the role model for others in the same way.

As the leader teaching others through the resources you create, you will be giving your people something in common. You will be giving them a way to live and behave both in their personal and professional lives. They will then be able to pass on this commonality to their people.

The commonality being you. It is your character that enables you to behave like a highly effective leader. It is your behaviour that your people will see. It is what your people see that will either attract them to you or not.

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Make your behaviour attractive to your people, so that they will want to model that behaviour. Give your people your vision that they can make their own, and believe what you believe.

We must never just expect our team and our people to just know how to behave. It is a low performing leader who thinks this way. That is how they get out of the responsibility of leading by example.

If the team do not have a vision to strive towards, believe what you believe, and a model of how to behave, then your team are not going to model highly effective leadership.

Highly effective leaders accept the responsibility of highly effective leadership. The responsibility of highly effective leadership is to create an environment for their people that will allow them to learn, grow, develop, and follow a role model. What kind of environment are you going to create?

If people follow leaders because they have to, then there is no freedom to choose. If people follow leaders because they want to, then there is freedom to choose. Are you going to allow your people the freedom to choose?

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

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All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

26 thoughts on “What Is Leading By Example?

  1. Though I’m not a leader I can certainly understand the need to develop yourself first. Being confident and moving out of your comfort zone can achieve amazing things. Your team will follow your example and in turn influence others. I’m a great believer in self development, and making the very best of your abilities. Yes, it does take hard work and motivation, but can be very rewarding.

    1. Hi Kathy,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found this article valuable. Please remember, we all have the ability to lead and you do not need a job title to be a leader 🙂

      I love how you are a great believer in self development because that is exactly what a highly effective leader believes. Making yourself the most valuabel person you can be will enable you to add as much value as you can to others.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  2. Hi, Tom! This is a great article you have here. Your first tip spoke to me the most. I have worked with so many managers over the years, and very few of them were committed to leading their employees properly. They just judged me, (and everyone else) “instructing” us through intimidation instead of teaching. Management didn’t want to bother with building a relationship, they just wanted the under-paid employees to do everything for them. Including paperwork that wasn’t our responsibility!

    I wish your article was around back then. I would have sent it to my employers for review. No joke. I would do it regardless of the outcome. Team leaders need to know this stuff!

    Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi Darcy,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found this a great article.

      I appreciate you sharing your expereinces of working with different managers, just like I have. It’s amazing to see the differences between them all and learn from all of them.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. We agree with you on highly effective leaders judge themselves before they judge everyone else. We as leaders for our work should start coming naturally to teach others and help with building their characters.
    Not rushing things but rather rationalizing with other employees to find the best alternative to problems.
    Starting with ourselves to be role modes for others and sharing our thoughts, and taking their thoughts and feelings into consideration.
    Being an effective leader is a learning process and does not stop, if so, then you will be neutral or as Tom, say’s static.
    Tom is teaching us more to be an effective leader and learning is always with an open mind and does not stop.

    Cheers,
    Mathew&Deloris

    1. Hi Matthew/Deloris,

      Thank you for your comment and for your kind words. It means a lot to me that this article resonated with you and that you are learning from it.

      Being a role model for others, we must start with ourselves as you say. We must work on ourselves to become the most valuabel person we can be so we can add more value to others. We cannot give what we do not have.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. I think that a leader can only lead by example. A leader who walks the talk is respected, admired, and sometimes even loved. People recognize right away if a leader is just preaching one thing but showing the opposite and they will lose respect for that person, take him or her less seriously, and just do their job, do their daily 8 hours and go home.
    People who lead by example look at themselves first, evaluate themselves, and I think that it isn’t easy to do. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable gave me pause … not everyone can do that. It’s true, though, in order to succeed we must get out of our comfort zones, but doing it takes getting used to.

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found this article valuable.

      Leading by example is the most important leadership principle for me. Walking the walk and talking the talk is how we build trust, strengthen relationships and increase our influence with our people.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. Hi Tom
    Being in a leadership role for more than 20 years as project head, I always tried to maintain a balance.

    Self-awareness is the principle of Leadership and successful leader inspire people around them. An effective leader will push the people around him to greatness by establishing a good relationship

    What makes me happy is important but what makes them happy is equally important. Work-life balance is important and it is the leader’s responsibility to set an example for others as well.

    . I would like to keep a balance between stress and productivity

    Your thought on this. WOuld like to hear from you. Also please keep me posted on your next article, I have bookmarked your site.

    Arun

    1. Hi Arun,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you have bookmarked my site and found my article valuable.

      I appreciate you sharing your experience of the 20 years you have had as a project head. You sound like you definitely knew what you were doing when it came to leading your people. I hope people who read this article can learn from you too as much as they learn from me.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. I do believe that leaders lead by example and if I were to remember all the bosses that I’ve had before, they all walk the talk and highly capable of what they are doing PLUS what I’m doing – meaning they have also done what I was doing and understood what the lower level employees feel.

    That said, there were times whereby a leader can lead by example but that example isn’t necessarily the most fitting to the new “generation” of employees and perhaps using techniques that are no longer the most efficient.

    Would love to hear your take on this.

    Because even though I do respect leaders who lead by example, (nobody’s perfect) we at some point have communication barriers or generation gap that drives the employees away..

    1. Hi Wina,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you found this article valuable.

      Leading by example is the most important leadership principle for me, and I appreciate you sharing your experience of working with your bosses who did lead you by example.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. Thank u for the free ebook Tom. It seems a great read.
    I follow your teachings very closely as I find you have very interesting and novel ideas on Leadership.
    Regards,
    Aps

    1. Hi Aparna,

      Thank you for your comment.

      It’s my pleasure to share my free e-book with you and many others. I hope you find it valuable and if you have any issues or burning questions on the e-book then please get in touch.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. Great advice as always Tom.

    Your articles are full of great advice and I have passed on your website details to friends I know will benefit more as they are in those type of leadership positions.

    Becoming a highly effective leader as you mention in many cases can be very challenging if you want to make an impact within the business.

    A strong character is paramount to your success as an effective leader.

    Once again thank you Tom for sharing this valueable information.

    1. Hi Mick,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found great advice in this article.

      I couldn’t agree more that a strong character is paramount to a leader’s success. That is why we must work on our character every single day and keep strengthening it for the good of our people.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. Hi Tom,

    Thank you for sharing this insightful article with us!

    Leading by example is an ultimate quality of an authentic leader and come naturally in the process. I bet everyone of us has once met a good leader who instilled motivation in us, and by striving hard to progress we have took this person as a role model and do the things he does

    Because somehow we find this person successful and we believe that he must be doing things in the right way. A leader that lead by example show us the courage to do the things which we would be afraid to do and make us realize that everything is difficult before its easy.

    Continue the great work!

    Cheers

    1. Hi Arnaud,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m really pleased that you found this article insightful, means a lot to me.

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this and I agree that leading by example is an ultimate quality of a leader. It is the most important leadership principle in my view. We must SHOW our people that we care for them, not just tell them.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. This is a good short framework of a HUGE path that is leadership. The dynamic journey that it takes to go from child to leader is one that seems to have common aspects with everyone, but every single path is exclusive to the person and their experiences.

    Sometimes the hardest part of leadership is not having the environment in which you can lead.

    I believe the only part of leading by example that you may have missed is finding your place where you can lead; somewhere that you know what to do, what needs to be done and who can do it.

    A mechanic will have a hard time leading a bakery.

    Find who you are, then follow the steps above.

    1. Hi Tyler Clark,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that this article has brought out your thoughts on leadership.

      I have to disagree with you Tyler. If the mechanic is a leader and has led people before, then he wouldn’t have a hard time leading a bakery. If the mechanic is a leader, then he/she is no longer a mechanic. They are in the people business, not the engineering or mechanics business. People are people and we have to use the same leadership principles with mechanics as we do with bakers.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  11. Hi Tom,

    Thank you for another educative piece on leadership, on leading by example.

    One of the things that many people detest is hypocrisy and that is why we have to be watchful when it comes to how we lead our lives. As you say, it’s not about being perfect but very much about practicing what we ‘preach’. If we are not prepared to behave in a certain manner than don’t expect other to act as such otherwise if we are found out to be living contrary to what we assert, (and we eventually are found out) then we undermine trust which is key to influence.

    There are lots of really good insights here and I have really grateful for this post.

    Thanks
    Femi

    1. Hi Femi,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you found this article educational.

      I agree that we don’t have to be perfect in our lives, but as a leader it is important that we practice what we preach. We cannot say we do one thing and behave in a different way. This will create distrust with our people and our influence will decrease rather than increase.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  12. Hey Tom,

    This is a powerhouse of an article on leading by example! I have found it very useful as I am in a leadership role as well. In fact, i like to call it a “coaching” role instead of “leading”. The duties and ideology of my role align beautifully with what you have explained herein. I agree with the points you have listed here in order to be a successful/influential leader because I have noticed them to be true: my team tends to be influenced by my behavior and positive outlook and this is why it is imperative to build a strong & stable character that others can see, value, and reciprocate.

    I struggled with one little issue though. Now I am interested to know what your take would be on it: When I was hired as “coach” for my team, I was the youngest amongst all.. And I am talking decades younger! What are your thoughts on leading a group of people who are much older than you and set in the ways they think and do things ? How do you think it is appropriate to get them to think of you as an “authority” figure?

    Would love to hear your thoughts!

    Cheers,
    Sasha

    1. Hi Sasha,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you think this is a powerhouse of an article, means a lot to me.

      I appreciate you sharing your experience of being in a leadership role and I am pleased that this article has resonated with you. I hope you can use the principles in this article and my other articles to help you in your role. I would love for you to keep in touch and if you need further help in the future then please let me know.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  13. What a great post, I love the first section where you ask if we want our team to achieve better results or live better lives! That is powerful. Once cold argue that if your team is living better lives they will in turn also achieve better results. Very cool!

    Also i love how you highlight the importance of our behavior. I have had leaders who directed us what to do and I have had leaders who have shown us what to do by doing it themselves. Of course the leader who leads by example is not only better liked but gets the better results.

    Great post man!

    1. Hi Robb,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m pleased that you thought this was a great article.

      I agree that if you want your team to achieve great results, then help them to develop into better people and become leaders. Behaviour is so important and it is important that we behave congruently with what we say. We must talk the talk and walk the walk.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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