Leading by Example

employees Learning & Development Talent

The manager with the “do as I say, not as a I do” attitude is a cliché in workplace TV and film and for good reason. It’s a character so many Americans can relate to.

At some point in their careers, many employees have encountered managers who expect them to exhibit behavior the managers themselves do not exhibit. While there may be legitimate situations in which a manager doesn’t necessarily need to follow the same rules he or she sets for staff, there are very good reasons for him or her to do so—and lead by example.

Perception of Fairness

A manager’s clocking out at 3:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon while the rest of the staff is obligated to stay until 5:00 p.m. is certain to cause some legitimate grumbling. Over the long term, repeated and widespread instances of double standards can have a devastating impact on morale and productivity.

Employees will be less inclined to go the extra mile when they feel like they’re already being asked to do too much compared with their boss. Many may even start looking for alternative employment.

Connection Between Compliance and Advancement

When managers practice what they preach, it creates a visible connection for staff between following the rules and being rewarded with a promotion and greater responsibility, prestige, and pay.

An employee who sees that his or her boss consistently attends mandatory meetings, submits regular reports, shows up early, and stays late will recognize that these are behaviors the company is looking for in its managers. Assuming that employee aspires to advance, it’s a clear recipe for him or her follow.

Literal Example of How to Execute Directives

The phrase “lead by example” is typically interpreted as setting an example of what should be done. But in a more literal sense, it can also be a great example of how to perform certain tasks or meet certain standards.

Does working a full day mean 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.? Or is the company’s culture one in which anything less than a 10-hour day is considered slacking? Maybe it’s customary for everyone, including the CEO, to take a half day on Fridays during the summer. By living the desired behavior, managers can set an important example for their staff to follow.

It isn’t strictly necessary that every staff requirement be met by the manager, as well. But there are important benefits of leading by example, including the positive impact on morale, the modeling desired behaviors, and employee development.

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