leading by example: learning to walk the talk
Anyone who finds themselves in a position of power, with a determined focus on being a transformational leader, will quickly realize the immense challenge they have set for themselves.
To be in charge means all eyes are on you, and every step you make, word you use, and action you take is noticed and analyzed.
If you are serious about achieving incredible outcomes in your organization, the rules, values and mission that have been set forth must be honored by the leader first. This level of mindful leadership means you walk the talk and commit to making it a lifetime practice.
Be Authentic or Beware
It is the shortsighted individual that believes they can escape the process of leading by example and still reap the rewards of a humble and confident leadership style. Many people can seemingly skate by without putting much effort into their role, but these situations will always result in employee turnover, frequent change of command and decreased productivity.
To establish a positive workplace culture and earn the valuable trust of your team, you must create an outline for everyone to follow and then show them how to do it.
Some excellent ways to begin this process are:
Listen More and Talk Less – Sure, as a leader you are asked to speak on a lot of issues but try to keep your speeches on point and focus more attention on the feedback and input of others. By giving people an opportunity to participate, and actively hearing what they have to say, you are demonstrating respect and value for everyone, not just those in charge.
Invest Your Time – It is far too common that staff are required to show up for events, and upper management seems to get the day off. If you have organized workshops, speaking engagements or training courses, be the mindful leader that attends and participates with their team. Putting in this extra effort not only communicates a sense of equality, but it also gives everyone a chance to learn and grow together.
Follow the Rules – A position of power can cause some individuals to feel that the rules do not apply to them now that they are in charge. Not only is this false, it is a practice that can quickly breed toxicity in an organization. The truth of the matter is that following the rules should apply to leaders even more than the staff. By illustrating the importance of maintaining order, you inspire others to do the same.
Choose Words Wisely – You never know who is listening or how casual remarks may be perceived by others. Though we cannot avoid all missteps, take time to consider your words and avoid using jargon, slang, judgmental remarks, and personal jokes. These are all forms of speech that can harm feelings, create emotional distance, and erode company morale. Avoiding them is easier than repairing the damage.
Though these practices are not the only way to earn the trust of your staff, they do create excellent building blocks for the foundation.
Consistency is Everything
Leading by example is only as effective as the person who exercises the process on a daily basis, year after year. Of course, leaders are only human, and there will always be days when the responsibility of the job seems unfair or too much.
To minimize the risk of losing control, make it a routine to:
Practice Self-Care – Whether it is mindfulness, meditation, prayer, exercise or some other hobby, taking care of yourself on a regular basis will replenish your mind, spirit and body so you can perform at your best.
Admit Your Mistakes – For those times when you just cannot keep it together, do not be afraid to take responsibility for your actions and emotions. Admitting mistakes and apologizing for poor behavior shows confidence, courage and humility.
Share the Load – Doing too many things on your own will lead to exhaustion and burn out, so delegate to other team members and give them an opportunity to expand their skill set and allow you the opportunity to relax.
Spread Some Cheer – It seems that when we need a little cheer the most, it is the hardest emotion to come by. If you are feeling frustrated, take time to compliment and praise your staff. You are sure to find their smile to be contagious.
No one is perfect, but leaders can feel pressured to feel like they need to be, and this reality eventually takes its toll. By showing a little compassion for yourself, you can remain consistent and true, while still experiencing a few bumps along the way.
A Worthy Path
As with most things in life that really matter, walking the talk is hard. But all of the challenging work and thankless moments really do pay off in the end.
It is a brave leader who chooses to lead by example, but along the way, they will gather an endless supply of support, trust and loyalty that will make this path a worthwhile one to take.
Pandit Dasa is a mindful leadership expert, motivational keynote speaker and author who has spoken at Fortune 500 companies and helps organizations improve employee engagement, retention and workplace happiness. He helps individuals develop positive leadership qualities, lower stress and anxiety, increase focus and productivity and boost emotional intelligence.