Lead by Example: The Quality of Excellence in Effective Leadership - Peter Boolkah

A workplace benefits from strong leaders who guide employees. Leaders inspire, encourage, and direct their teams. Leading by example and establishing trust and accountability are key. This article talks about leading positively, its advantages, and how to do it effectively in the workplace.

What Leading by Example Means

Leading by example means you show your team the behavior you expect from them. Instead of just telling team members to aim for excellence, you show them how by doing it yourself. It’s about working together, not just giving orders. This approach creates a stronger bond, teamwork, and trust.

Leaders who lead by example show they value the team’s effort by sharing the workload. This way of leading makes team members more engaged and committed because it shows the leader cares about the team’s goals.

Lead by Example - Peter Boolkah

Benefits of Leading by Example in the Workplace

Leadership means setting a positive example and motivating others to follow. It applies to CEOs, managers, or team leaders. What you do affects team morale, productivity, and success.

Inspires others around you

Leading by example motivates your team to excel. Your actions encourage them to be creative, innovate, and solve problems. Seeing you tackle challenges and strive for improvement makes them likely to follow suit.

Builds trust and respect

Showing commitment to your team’s goals and values builds trust and respect. This happens when team members see you act on your advice. Trust and respect from your team can motivate and engage them, leading to improved performance and results.

Increase productivity through teamwork

When you set a good example, your team will work hard and achieve their goals for the organization. They will aim to make the team proud and perform at their best.

Commitment to the organization

Positive leadership often results in employees being more dedicated to the company. They aim to meet company goals, build a team spirit, and support the company’s mission and values. A leader who sets an example and works with their team motivates others to follow suit.

Fostering employee loyalty and engagement

Leading through example motivates team members and makes them appreciate being part of the company. Employees prefer working with enjoyable colleagues and leaders. Happy employees show up more often, have a positive attitude, contribute more in meetings, and are willing to take on extra work or assist a coworker.

Maintaining transparency

Leading by example promotes open and honest communication, fostering an environment where ideas are shared openly. Always be transparent, as this transparency will come back to you.

Build a culture of accountability

Leading by example promotes accountability and responsibility. If you show you take responsibility for your actions, your team will likely follow. Admitting mistakes and learning from them leads to constant improvement.

Benchmark standards

A leader’s behavior sets workplace standards. Your actions influence how your team acts. Being punctual to meetings encourages your team to do the same. Poor communication with employees can lead to a divided and uncooperative workplace.

15 Ways to Lead by Example in the Workplace

Everyone possesses distinct traits that contribute to their effectiveness as a leader. There isn’t just one correct method of leadership—however, here are 15 straightforward strategies to lead effectively.

1. Get involved

The best way to set an example is to lead actively, not just observe. Participating in team projects shows you value and understand their efforts. Your involvement should support, not control, their work, demonstrating your backing for what they do.

2. Follow through on your promises

Leading by example effectively involves building trust. Begin with keeping your promises. This demonstrates your commitment and earns the team’s trust in your leadership. They’ll likely be more eager to ask questions, handle extra tasks, and engage more as team members. Employees who doubt their leader’s reliability may become disengaged and less productive.

3. Put your team members first

Leading isn’t just about task management. It’s about motivating and inspiring your team, too. Set an example in projects and make your team’s needs a priority. Make sure team members get the recognition they deserve. Keep an eye on their workload to avoid burnout. Teach effective communication in the workplace. Promote strong teamwork.

4. Come to work with energy

If you want to set a good example, arrive at work with a positive attitude and energy. This will lead to more momentum and motivation in your daily tasks. Your team will notice your attitude and follow it, creating a productive and supportive environment that gets work done efficiently.

5. Avoid micromanaging

Leading by example shows your team how to behave. However, they won’t always do things your way. Micro-managing can cause frustration and demotivate them. Trust your team to do their best work and be there to support them when needed. Great leaders encourage trying new methods.

You can still coach and give feedback when it’s needed. Look for opportunities to coach. Show the work ethic you expect from your team members, peers, and direct reports through your actions, not just your words.

6. Work alongside your team

Effective leaders work with their teams. Spend time with your team outside your office to become a key member of the group. Working closely with your team lets you understand their abilities, tasks, and projects, improving your leadership and ability to answer questions and guide them to success.

Being close to your team builds trust and improves morale. Working together also means you’ll know their challenges firsthand. This allows you to find solutions to improve their work life.

7. Make room for flexibility

Good leaders are adaptable. Things often change, making flexibility crucial for leadership. More than 70% of workers say flexible plans make organizations more resilient. Plans may need adjustment, priorities might shift, or deadlines could change. Failing to meet a goal or having to rethink a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is part of the process.

Adapting to these changes and supporting your team through them builds strong leadership skills. Always keep in touch with your team to ensure they have the necessary information to do their most important work.

8. Follow the rules

If you want your team to perform well and ensure everyone is responsible for their work, create rules. Rules can be positive and make expectations and responsibilities clear. Set an example by following the rules of your team and the organization. Doing so will likely make your team follow them, too, leading to a more cohesive workplace.

9. Listen to understand

There are two ways to listen: to reply or to understand. Active listening focuses on understanding. When you listen to understand, you aim to fully grasp what the other person is saying, not just to respond with your thoughts.

This matters a lot when receiving feedback from a team member. It’s easy to feel defensive when someone gives you feedback. However, consider that this feedback is meant to help you improve. Effective leaders welcome constructive criticism, thank the person for their input, and strive to improve.

Trust your team

10. Trust your team

Make sure your team knows the company’s vision, values, and goals and their role in its success. Every employee is hired for a specific reason, bringing unique skills and experience. Trust your team to do their work well, and you’ll earn their respect while inspiring other leaders in the workplace.

11. Lead with empathy

Lead with empathy by validating your employees’ feelings and empathizing with them. Start by being aware of your own emotions. Notice how you feel and the reasons behind it. This makes you more sensitive to others’ emotions.

Listen to people carefully. Try to understand their perspectives, even if they differ from yours. Respond with compassion instead of judgment. If someone is having a hard time, offer support or a kind gesture to show you care.

12. Attend workshops and training

Even leaders need to grow. It’s key to show your team that you’re aware you don’t know everything but are dedicated to learning more to improve in your role. This builds trust in your leadership and motivates them to seek out growth opportunities—such as conferences and networking events—on their own.

13. Show a strong work ethic

Business leaders should arrive early and leave late. Showing up on time, engaging in important projects, and helping solve big problems sets clear expectations for their team and earns respect.

14. Watch what you say and do

Influential leaders understand that people watch and interpret their words and actions. Lead by example and think about how your team might see your actions and words. In stressful work situations, stay supportive and encourage your team.

15. Promote the importance of work-life balance

To avoid employee burnout, founders need to set an example by balancing work and personal life. They should take care of themselves and establish clear work boundaries. For example, they could make a rule not to check emails or take calls after work hours and do the same while on vacation. This will make employees feel more comfortable to follow suit.

What Happens if Leaders Don’t Lead by Example?

This section will cover the consequences of not leading by example.

Low morale

Poor leadership quickly ruins the atmosphere at work. Employees struggle to feel happy or motivated without a trustworthy leader. Trust and respect in leadership are key to maintaining a positive and productive work environment.

Inefficient systems

Leaders who set a good example teach their teams to work faster and more effectively. They show the importance of thinking about the whole system and always looking to improve. On the other hand, poor leaders fail to show their teams how to work efficiently. They don’t explain how to critically examine systems and processes.

Without support from managers, teams struggle to find efficient ways to work. This often results in ineffective and inefficient systems.

Lack of trust and respect

Employees question leaders who don’t lead by example. They struggle to trust their manager’s decisions and leadership style.

Low work ethic

Setting a poor example can quickly erode work ethic. If you perform poorly, your employees will likely struggle to do well too. It’s crucial to lead by example to maintain high performance and motivation within your team. A good leader’s behavior directly influences the team’s success.

High turnover rate

Hiring and training new employees can be expensive for a business. Poor leadership leads to a higher turnover rate among employees. Effective management can reduce these costs and improve employee retention. Investing in good leadership is crucial for the long-term success of any company.

Leaders Who Lead by Example

Great leaders are shaped by challenges and different situations. They emerge in many places, from politics to movies, showing leadership everywhere.

Michelle Obama

In 2020, Michelle Obama mentioned that leading with fear and division doesn’t fix problems. She emphasized that her main goal is not to serve her ego but to be a good example for future generations.

Keanu Reeves

Reeves is famous for his humility and care for others, treating everyone equally well, from junior crew members to directors. This creates a safe and positive work environment that helps everyone.

Winston Churchill

Churchill was known for his teamwork, energy, and positive outlook, always crediting others for success. When people credited him for defeating Nazi Germany, Churchill said, “It was the courage of the nation and race around us. I was just lucky to be the one to give the roar.”


Which leadership style is leading by example?

The leadership style known for leading by example is Servant Leadership. Servant leaders focus on meeting the needs of their team members and helping them to succeed and grow. They prioritize the well-being and development of their team, demonstrating the behaviors they want to see in others. This approach inspires trust, increases engagement, and builds a strong, positive workplace culture.

Is leading by example enough?

Leading by example is crucial, but it’s not enough on its own. A good leader must also communicate effectively, provide clear direction, and actively listen to their team’s feedback. It’s about combining actions with the right strategies and support systems to ensure the team can achieve its goals. Leading by example sets the tone, but ongoing mentorship, support, and open communication complete the leadership equation.

What are the negatives of leading by example?

Leading by example can create unrealistic expectations, as leaders might set standards too high for others to follow. It can also lead to burnout for leaders who try to do too much on their own. This approach might overshadow the team’s contributions, making them feel undervalued. Finally, it doesn’t replace the need for clear guidance and instruction, which are essential for a team’s growth and success.

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