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Walking The Talk And Leading By Example

It is easy to walk the talk and lead by example- just lead from the heart and be authentic, and everything else will follow.

Walking the talk

I have always felt that a good leader is someone who walks the talk. By behaving and doing things that the leader preaches, he is inspiring others to follow his footsteps. This is particularly important in today’s day and age as many employees favour leaders who are authentic. If the leader says it, he must also be able to do it. And when the leader is able to do it, he becomes a role model to his people by walking the talk.

What is leadership by example?

Leadership by example is a type of leadership style where the leader models the behaviour he wants to see in his people. When a leader leads by example, he does not just push his people towards excellence- he actively demonstrates that excellence for his people to follow.

Leaders who lead by example appreciate and value their people’s work by carrying some of the weight themselves. This leadership style fosters high levels of engagement and buy-in because leaders actively demonstrate that they are invested in their people’s work.

Why should leaders lead by example?

There are many advantages of leading by example. Besides inspiring others and increasing overall productivity through teamwork, leaders who lead by example will inevitably gain trust and respect from others. With enhanced levels of trust and respect, leaders will be able to increase employee loyalty, engagement and retention. Last but not least, by walking the talk, leaders essentially build a culture of accountability within the organisation.

When leading by example is good

I know of a GM of a hotel who does not shy away from getting him hands dirty. He often rolls up his sleeves and lends a hand to his operations team (carrying chairs, arranging tables, cleaning rooms etc) as they are shorthanded (the entire hospitality industry is facing this predicament). Although they are hiring, new blood is not coming in quick enough to cater for the increase in business. Every hotel staff plays multiple roles- their usual responsibilities per their job description and additional supporting roles to other departments. The additional responsibilities and longer hours are clearly exhausting for everyone but with the GM walking the talk, they remain committed in overcoming this challenge together as a united team.

When leading by example is bad

I know of a CXO who is not hands-on at work. He does not focus on his own responsibilities and he would often outsource (not delegate) his work to his managers. On most occasions, he would simply perform menial work to look busy (the LLB strategy- look like busy!). Over time (learning from the CXO), his managers would also outsource their work to their juniors or peers from other departments. Needless to say, many people within the organisation are unhappy working and dealing with the CXO and his managers. Although these people remain cordial and professional when dealing with the CXO and his managers, their guard is always up to protect themselves from having to perform unnecessary work that are rightfully not under their responsibility.

How do leaders lead by example?

#1: Actively getting involved

Leaders lead by walking in front of the people and actively getting involved in their initiatives and projects. This will show the people that the leader values their work, understands their contribution, and appreciates their time. Getting involved does not mean the leader taking over the initiatives and projects, but rather, showing the people that the leader supports their work.

#2: Put people first by listening to them

Leading is not just about managing. Good leadership is also about motivating and inspiring the people. In addition to leading by example, leaders need to put the people first and look out for them. What’s key here is for leaders to actively listen to the people so that their needs and thoughts are clearly understood, and the necessary tweaks can be made to ensure alignment with the overarching organisational goals and objectives.

#3: Be flexible

The best leaders make room for flexibility. As good as a plan may be, things are fluid and the best-laid plans do not always work out, which is why flexibility is important. Learning to go with the flow, and more importantly, supporting the team while they go with the flow, can help leaders build trust and motivate the team to succeed even in challenging times. When leaders make room for flexibility, their organisations can be more resilient to change and more sustainable.

Final words

It is easy to walk the talk and lead by example. All a leader needs to do is lead from the heart and be authentic, and everything else will follow. Remember that all eyes are on you and you need to be the best role model you can possibly be.


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