Leading by Example

In today’s business environment, with the changing attitudes of employees, it is even more important that leaders live the culture that they are expecting from their teams.  Over my career, I have heard the complaint that management wants changes, but their actions don’t match their words.  Terms like “Walk the Talk” have been around for years – trying to articulate that management must live by the words they’re communicating.  But management often operate under the theory of “do as I say and not as I do”.

In order to truly develop the culture you want in your organization, you need to operate with a high level of integrity whereby you are living the message that you are preaching.  This poses a very difficult question for leaders in organizations.  Are you willing to make the changes in yourself and actions that support what you are asking your team to adopt?  If not, your organization will likely fail to achieve the heights you are looking for.  My perspective is that it is even stronger than a “willingness” to change – but that change is a “must”.  As you make the changes in yourself, things will simply begin to show up in others.  Your team is looking to you.

First, you must ensure your vision and direction are crystal clear (see “Does your organization have clarity?”).  Once you have clarity, the following guidelines will help you operate true to your message.

  • Hold yourself accountable to modeling behavior – Nothing is more important than your team observing you doing what you are excepting of them.  To ensure that you are modeling the behavior you are looking for, check yourself.  Make it a simple part of your daily routine to be introspective and ask yourself the question – Am I who I want the team to be?  If you aren’t, then you can identify what changes you need to make and take a step in that direction.  Then ask yourself the same question tomorrow.  Like the changes you are looking for within your team, it may not be immediate.
  • Operate as part of the team – People don’t want an aloof leader that isn’t involved and proves that she understands the complexities of the business.  Be a leader that rolls up the sleeves and is hands on – get involved.  Again, this provides a visible effort on your part to live your expected culture.
  • Help Employees Achieve Success – The more that you mentor and teach members of your team (or encourage others on your team to mentor), the more your team will recognize that you are not only passionate about the success of your company, but also about their success.  While today’s workers like autonomy to be able to tackle their jobs, they also need to be given the tools to master their roles.
  • Be Open to Feedback – Asking for feedback is important, but even more important is being open to feedback and respecting the information you receive.  Too many times, leadership asks for feedback, but spend too much energy justifying their actions.  While you don’t have to act on every piece of feedback, you do need to be open and consider the information you are being provided.
  • Strategic Communication – Communication is important to ensuring continued progress.  By providing strategic conversations and information with your team, they will be more engaged and feel more a part of the organization.  These conversations will help them appreciate the progress the organization is making.  Additionally, it will help them understand the challenges.

Bottom line, it is very easy to dictate culture; however, to have the culture develop and grow, you as a leader must show your willingness to change as well.  Use the example steps above, or find others that fit your style, to ensure that you are proving your willingness to “Walk the Talk”.

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