Leadership Qualities- Leadership by Example

Posted on March 16, 2010

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Team Leadership, photo from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Among the numerous leadership qualities that are desirable in a leader is leadership by example.

I believe that some time in our life, we may come across two leaders who hold the same intent of, say, enforcing a particular standard. The first goes about doing this by an ‘imperial edict’ style, announcing publicly that everyone would henceforth have to comply with the mentioned standard. All well and good, but soon everyone was taken aback when they realize that the leader completely ignores his own words and undermine his own standards. This not only creates resentment for the leader for his double standards, but also jeopardise the standard to be enforced. Consider the other leader. Rather than announcing the standards to be maintained, he chooses to come about it quietly and start by doing what he hopes the team to follow. Over time, his action does not go unnoticed and one by one, the team members begin to follow suit. Such is the power of leadership by example.

All too often, many leaders view themselves as above their own ‘law’, and disregards the common standards and rules that dictate the execution of tasks and the running of daily work. They view that as leaders, they should be granted the privilege to break a few rules, gain a few exceptions and cross a few lines. Their argument that they are responsible and matured enough to earn these rights is certainly reasonable, at least in most cases. Obviously, while they may do so as long as they act responsibly, such an attitude may not always be welcomed by their subordinates, and rightfully so. Doing what we hope others to do shows that we care and understand the pains involved, respect the work of others and sets the standard for work. Leadership by example, or practicing what we preach, is hence an invaluable leadership quality.

Leadership by example is perhaps, among the fundamental tools of a transformational leader. In their quest to inspire their team, leadership by example is indispensable. By showing the team what to do rather than telling them, the members instantly recognise how the task should be done and to what standard should it be set to. If the task happens involves getting one’s hands dirty, leading by example shows that the leader understands the difficulties involved, and is still willing to do what it takes to accomplish it. This not only shows that it is important to get the task done, it allows the leader to gain instant rapport with the team as they realise that the leader does not consider the task beneath him.

This does not mean to say that a transactional leader does not need to lead by example. In fact, it is equally important, if not more, for a transactional leader to lead by example. Imagining how you would feel if you were severely punished due to failing to adhere to a certain standard yet your boss can do as he please and you will realise why this is so.

If used appropriately, leadership by example may rally a team to achieve great heights, yet if abused, the poor leadership that results will kill the morale of the team instantly and become a liability to the team.

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