Leadership styles have a significant impact on team performance, employee morale, and overall workplace productivity. Although most business leaders and team managers understand the importance of training, goal setting, and establishing clear expectations, far too few realize the impact of their thoughts, beliefs, and actions on the workplace environment.
Great leaders understand the value of building strong workplace relationships while encouraging individual team members to reach their full potential. Since team members look to leaders for guidance, impactful leadership requires a firm commitment to sending the right signals, at the right time, for the right reasons. To ensure they are sending appropriate signals consistently, the most impactful team leaders lead by example.
Setting the Example for Others to Follow
Before a leader can inspire excellence in others, they need to consider the unspoken messages their actions convey. For example, a manager who habitually arrives to the office 15 minutes late is sending the message that punctuality is not a priority. A team leader who micromanages may not realize their actions could be interpreted as a general distrust of their team. A leader who fails to follow established procedures gives employees the impression that rules are not important.
By taking inventory of the many potential messages their actions convey, those in positions of leadership are better equipped to view themselves from the perspective of others. Evaluating their habits from the perspective of those they lead requires a significant amount of self-awareness, and the ability to provide honest answers to a few difficult questions, including:
- Do I view myself objectively?
- Does my self-perception agree with the way others perceive me?
- Do I respond to adversity appropriately?
- How appropriately do I respond to employee concerns?
- Am I too formal, casual, blunt, or analytical?
- Do I understand how to motivate my team?
- Do I pay attention to non-verbal cues?
- Do I set an example I want others to emulate?
Most people have less self-awareness than they realize. A leader who prides themselves on being assertive may be perceived as harsh or unyielding. Those wondering how their management style is perceived by others may want to consider asking a trusted source for an honest assessment. Leaders who take the initiative to cultivate self-awareness, understand their own motivation, strengths, and areas in need of improvement are far better equipped to influence others.
Leadership Traits That Inspire Others to Reach Their Full Potential
There is no place for hypocrisy in leadership. Leaders who assign unattainable goals, set unrealistic expectations, or point fingers when plans fail are creating a potentially toxic atmosphere of resentment, suspicion, and mistrust. The negative working environment increases the likelihood of low employee morale, decreased productivity, and high turnover rates.
Research investigating the impact of leadership styles confirm that supervisors who lead by example increase workplace productivity and improve overall team member engagement. By setting the example of expected behavior, treating team members in a manner in which leaders themselves expect to be treated, and engaging in the same level of participation they expect from their team, leaders encourage excellence. Team members generally respond accordingly. Just a few of the many ways successful leaders influence others by example include:
Displaying and Encouraging AuthenticityA leader determined to appear infallible is unlikely to earn the respect of their team. When leaders are afraid to admit they don't have all the answers or refuse to admit mistakes, their employees may feel uncomfortable asking for help. Authenticity is much more productive. Leaders who admit vulnerability, ask for help, request clarification and feedback, and expect others to do the same, encourage playing to the personal strengths of individual team members. By encouraging authenticity and playing to strengths those in positions of leadership provide opportunities for employees to develop their talents while creating a cooperative, collaborative environment.
Taking Time to ListenSome leaders are more receptive to the thoughts and concerns of their team than others. Those who lead by example encourage workplace communication by requesting honest feedback and taking the time to listen to the answers. Leaders who allow ample time for others to speak, refrain from jumping to conclusions, and ask open-ended questions establish the expectation that everyone has the right to be heard. Strong leaders also take time to consider the perspective (and feelings) of others before responding honestly and objectively.
Displaying Personal Integrity and a Strong Work EthicA leader who expects honesty, integrity, and accountability from their team members should have a clear understanding of right and wrong. A leader who expects others to value success, achievement, attention to detail, and professional behavior should demonstrate those traits. Those who lead by example don't ask for anything from others they don’t expect from themselves.
Coaching and MentoringActively coaching and mentoring individual team members helps build strong working relationships while improving team productivity. Establishing clear goals, providing instruction and feedback, and holding team members accountable for coaching objectives builds an atmosphere of mutual respect. During coaching sessions, those who lead by example strive for two-way communication and inspire excellence.
Acknowledging Individual ContributionsLeaders are commonly held accountable for team success. Weak leaders tend to take credit for team success and blame team members when shared goals are not achieved. Those who lead by example are not afraid to recognize team member contributions. They also take responsibility for mistakes rather than placing blame on coworkers. Taking responsibility for mistakes while recognizing individual achievements builds trusting relationships between leaders and their teams.
Leaders who lead by example also respect people’s differences, offer solutions rather than dwell on problems, and work alongside their team to achieve common goals. Leading by example encourages others to reach their full potential.
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