How to Lead by Example in the Workplace

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How to lead by example in the workplace
by Raffi Varoujian
Created on: September 21, 2010
There are plenty of people at work who talk a good game, but fail to back up their words with actions. Following through on your responsibilities and commitments is key to being a success in the workplace. However, “doing your job” is a given – it is the bare minimum that is expected of you by your employer and your colleagues. It goes without saying that you should act professionally, dress appropriately, be courteous, and responsive. However, to lead, you should be setting the standard, rather than following it. It is very easy to do what everyone else is doing – there is safety in numbers, and sticking your head above the parapet is usually a risky proposition. So, how do you lead by example? Be honest

Honesty and integrity are the twin foundation on which we build trust.  The word “trust” is often bandied about in the corporate environment, but as in any area of life, it is difficult to earn and very east to lose. Be honest in your communications with colleagues and superiors, own up to any mistakes you have made, take responsibility for your actions and be quick to share the credit and acknowledge the contributions of colleagues when appropriate. The default setting in a corporate environment, or any workplace for that matter is that people are very quick to accept credit and even quicker to distribute blame. By taking the harder road of being honest, sometimes at the expense of your pride, you lead by example. Be courageous

They say the top of the pile is a lonely place to be. People don’t lead from the back, they lead from the front. That means you will be saying things and doing things differently from others and working outside of your comfort zone. That takes courage. Courage is different from fearlessness. Acting without fear means taking risks without caring about the consequences. Courage means taking risks even though you are fully aware of, and frightened by what might happen. In the workplace, having courage may simply mean speaking your mind at appropriate times, pointing out things that you know are not right, suggesting a better way to do things and generally suggesting solutions instead of perpetuating the problem, which is what happens when you stay silent. By being courageous, you lead by example. Be above it

When has anyone ever been made better, more productive, or been edified by water cooler conversations? A lot of needless time and energy is devoted to office gossip, which is really a disguised way to make yourself feel important or better than someone else. Gossip about people has a destructive effect. Gossip about colleagues or other business units masks problems that should be brought out into the open and resolved to improve productivity and teamwork. By refusing to engage in gossip, by pointing out that it is not constructive, and by helping to address the underlying issues, you demonstrate honesty, courage and lead by example. Be a facilitator

Being a leader is not just about doing your own job, it’s also about helping others do theirs more effectively. It’s about filling the gaps where you see a need, even if its “not your job”. It’s about making sure that the phrase “not my problem” is not in your vocabulary. It may not be yours, but a problem that is not dealt with, though possibly not affecting you personally, affects the efficiency of your organisation, so, you see, it IS your problem. If you can’t solve the issue yourself, be a facilitator instead of a dead end. Suggest solutions, find out who can help and introduce your colleague to them. Above all, take the initiative and resolve to own, progress and manage issues that may not necessarily be part of your job role, especially if no one else is taking responsibility. There is a famous Chinese proverb “a courtyard owned by many, is swept by none” – by volunteering to take the role of sweeper, you lead by example. It is hard to lead. By...
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