Great leaders remind themselves regularly that actions speak louder than words.
“I serve with honor on and off the battlefield…I lead by example in all situations.” -- Navy SEAL Creed
Navy SEALs are trained to be leaders, regardless of age or rank. To put it another way, they are trained to earn trust. As I learned with the SEALs, and relearn continually in business, people truly follow only those they trust.
One of the best ways to build trust with the team is to lead by example. Here are seven ways to lead by example and inspire your team.
Get your hands dirty. Do the work and know your trade. You don’t have to be the most advanced technician on the team, but you must have an in-depth understanding of your industry and your business. Leaders have many responsibilities, but it is important to work alongside your team. This is a great way to build trust and continue to develop your own knowledge and skills.
Watch what you say. Actions do speak louder than words, but words can have a direct impact on morale. For better or for worse. Be mindful of what you say, to whom, and who is listening. Always show support for all team members. If someone needs extra guidance, provide it behind closed doors.
Respect the chain of command. One of the fastest ways to cause structural deterioration, foster confusion, and damage morale is to go around your direct reports. All team members need to respect the leadership at every level. If the senior leaders don’t respect the chain of command, why would anyone else?
Listen to the team. As leaders, sometimes we are so consumed with providing directive, giving orders, and, well, talking that we forget to stop and listen. If the recruitment and training engine is functioning well, you should have a whole team of experts to turn to for advice. One sign of good leadership is knowing that you don’t know everything. Listen and get feedback from your team regularly.
Take responsibility. As the saying goes, it’s lonely at the top. Blame roles uphill. Great leaders know when to accept that mistakes have been made and take it upon themselves to fix them. It doesn’t matter if one of your team members messed up or you did. If you are the leader, you need to take responsibility.
Let the team do their thing. Stop micromanaging. Communicate the mission, vision, values, and goals. Then step back and let the team innovate. Setting this example for the team will encourage your other managers to do the same.
Take care of yourself. Wellness and fitness are essential for good leadership. The more you take care of yourself, the more energy you will have and the better work you will do. The only way to build a fitness oriented culture is to lead by example. Get in shape and lead from the front.
These are only seven of the many ways to lead by example. This style of leadership must be practiced continually and be performed in and out of the workplace in order for it to be genuine.