In a leadership position you have different responsibilities. For me the most important is Lead By Example. It’s not only important for leadership positions, everyone should do it. Trainees, Juniors, Intermediates, Seniors, any fancy title or a Managing Directors.
A few days ago I talked to a former colleague. I told her that I'm looking for a leadership coach. For a few months I’m in an official leadership role, which sometimes can feel weird and overwhelming. A few days after the conversation she said to me "I thought about what you have said and in the first place I was surprised, because you have been leading people since years. It's not new to you, but I can understand that the official role changes things. But you know what you are really good at? What are you really living? Leading by example".
I really appreciate the feedback, because I truly believe in it. That's why I want to share my top 8 thoughts with you about lead by example.
Why should people who you lead, who are in your team do what you expect them to do, if you don’t do it as well? For example, you are a Tech Manager and you want your colleagues to attend conferences or other tech events. Why should they do it if you don’t attend such events? Do it as a team or tell them what you learned at an event or who you met. Or if you want your colleagues to be nice to each other, you should be nice to them as well...
We are all humans and we do make mistakes! That’s normal and also fine, because we learn from mistakes we make. But to learn from the situations we need to be open about it. Of course it’s not easy to speak about mistakes, doesn't matter which level you have. But it helps to accept that it’s normal.
Show your colleagues that you may be a role model for them, but you are not a superhero. Talk about your learning path and that you worked for where you are today. It’s not magic, it’s not a superpower you are born with. Show your colleagues that you are making mistakes, that you still need to learn, that you have emotions and need brakes same as every other person. Show them that you don’t know everything, that you can be proved wrong and that you are asking for and need help.
If you are sick, take days off. Shut down the computer, smartphone, and every other communication. Humans who are sick (doesn’t matter if physical or mental) need a break to heal. People who see that their leads work while they are ill, are more likely to feel the pressure to do it as well. Same goes for vacation. Take your days off to relax, to get your energy back, to do whatever you love to do - without working. You may already have it in mind: don’t do over hours on a regular basis. Nobody should do it, doesn’t matter in which position. Sure, over hours may happen depending on the area you are working, but they shouldn't take place on a regular basis.
Colleagues will trust you, if you are honest to them. They will see you as trustworthy and be honest to you as well. It will help them to also speak open to you if they have a problem with a situation, job or other colleagues.
Be transparent. Sure there might be situations where you are not allowed to talk about something or a colleague talks to you in private and that’s fine. But tell your colleagues why a decision was made. Let them know why the company chose a specific way, a tool or anything else. What can possibly go wrong? Trust your colleagues so they can trust you.
Treat yourself and others with respect and they will respect you. That means, watch your language, your voice, your body language. Listen to ideas others have regardless of levels and respect that they may have other opinions than you have.
Very important: don’t claim ideas of others as your own ones.
Give feedback on a regular basis. Not only once a year. Think about what feedback type the person you are talking to is. Not everyone likes the [sandwich method]. Give them positive feedback, things you appreciate them for. But give them also something where they can prove themself and offer them help if needed. Ask your team to give you feedback as well and give them the time to prepare this properly.
You want people to listen to you? That they not just hear you, that they truly listen and understand what you are telling them? Then it's a good start to listening to them first. Ask them what you can do to make their job easier, how they feel, about their opinion or ideas for a project or needed solution. Take time to do so, if you don't have enough time make an appointment as soon as possible where you can talk undisturbed.
Don’t forget to not only listen to the people you lead, listen to everyone. Your Managers, your colleagues, people from other disciplines. Listening should be your favorite song.
Lead By Example
If we don't start to lead by example our industry won’t change at all because we lead by example to go the wrong way. Let’s change that.