Michael Patrick is an attorney, passionate problem-solver and COO of The Property Advocates.
There are many different types of leadership styles and many different ways to be successful as a leader. Looking back on history, you’ll find plenty of examples of successful people using different leadership styles.
Whether you’re a visionary leader, a delegative leader or a participative leader, I believe one’s actual style of leadership isn’t really important as long as it works for the person using it.
However, I’ve found that one trait that is transcendent for many successful business management professionals is that they lead by example. Below is a more detailed look into why all business management should lead by example.
You can ensure you’re not being hypocritical.
Business management professionals who practice what they preach can avoid being labeled by their employees as hypocritical. Hypocritical leaders can kill a team’s morale and struggle to get buy-in. When managers say one thing but then do another thing themselves, they can make individual team members feel less than or beneath their leaders. This engenders a sense that employees are working for management rather than with them.
When employees feel undervalued or don’t feel valued at all, it’s a crushing blow, especially after they put in so much time and energy to complete their jobs. It’s similarly crushing if employees feel as though the company’s policies, processes and procedures don’t apply to leaders.
You can position yourself as a leader.
The words “manager” and “leader” are often used interchangeably, but there are remarkable and important differences between the two. All those in upper-level business positions should strive to be the latter and not the former, and they do that by leading by example.
A manager (or boss) gives orders from the hilltop and instructs the team on how they should achieve their mission. A leader, by contrast, is in the trenches as part of the team. They help the team, through example and inspiration, to achieve the mission. A manager focuses on the procedures and results of the team as a whole, while a leader is focused on each individual involved and the journey through which the team must travel.
You can gain significant buy-in.
If you want to establish an inclusive work environment where everyone feels valued and is rowing the boat in the same direction, you need to get buy-in from all employees. True leaders do this by educating employees on the “why” behind every task and the entire process.
The “why” is never “because I’m the boss, and I said so.” Instead, it’s an informative and educational process that actually includes and involves employees. When team members know why they are working on a task rather than just going through the motions of a checklist, I’ve found they become much more effective. Understanding the “why” helps them be more confident in the “what.” And confidence is one of the most significant motivating factors there is.
What you say has more validity.
When you lead by example, employees understand that your suggestions and ideas come from a place of practical knowledge rather than theory. Your actions, in other words, add validity to what you say.
Join the action right alongside your employees. In doing so, you can inspire confidence and motivation. In my experience, this can also result in increased productivity, as team members often try to match the energy levels and work ethic of the leader.
Ultimately, the true beneficiary of all of this is your customers and clients, who receive the same high-quality care whether they’re dealing directly with a manager or another member of the team.
You prepare others to follow in your footsteps.
Leading by example helps to create the next generation of leaders. It’s like the poem by Will Allen Dromgoole called “The Bridge Builder.” It’s important for leaders to make the path for the next person an easier one. You can do this by using your journey, experiences and lessons to ease the burden for those who follow.
Business management professionals who want to build an internal team of future leaders should start early and mentor people. Everyone has their own style and their own way of leading a team, but the hope should be that you can pass on the ideas of that “bridge builder” for the next leader to adopt and expand on.
This mentorship will also emphasize leadership by example. Your mentees can shadow you throughout the day and see how you handle different tasks and challenges. As they grow more confident and gain more experience, you can hand off more tasks and give them more autonomy until they’re taking on the role completely—leaving you to observe and support them.
Leading by example will build up your team members and prepare them for more prominent roles in the future. Ultimately, that results in your team being more productive, more effective and more efficient while feeling more satisfied in what they’re doing.