Do You Lead By Example?

5 Reasons Why You Need to Adjust Your Leadership Style

Do you lead by example? If you said yes, you’re not alone. Many senior leaders – with an abundance of passion, and a drive to succeed – set the pace in their organizations, demonstrating their commitment to the mission, their strong work ethic, their high standards. 

Looking at it from the leader’s perspective that seems to make sense. Surely, leading by example would lead to exceptional results? But in fact research shows this is not the case!

Did you know that this leadership style – also known as pacesetting – can actually have negative effects on the organizational climate, and on the effectiveness of the organization in achieving its mission?

If this is how you lead, here are five unintended consequences that you may see in your organization.  

  1. Discouragement and burnout: You reached your senior position in the organization because of your drive, work ethic, and your expertise in your field. But many of your staff find it hard to consistently achieve your standards of excellence. This leads to overwhelm, discouragement, and even burnout in the longer term.
  2. Dissatisfaction and disengagement: Those with exceptional abilities and the desire to achieve –  promising, emerging leaders in your organization –  feel that there is no room for them to spread their wings and therefore you lose them to more enticing opportunities elsewhere.
  3. Dependency: You may find yourself impatient when progress is slow or standards are not met – so you pitch in,  or take over the reins. This leads your staff to develop a learned helplessness – as eventually your team comes to expect you to step in and they stop striving for excellence.
  4. Leadership Gap: Because you are so capable, so driven, and so busy, you neglect to grow your team, leaving a leadership gap that stunts the growth of the organization.
  5. Less Innovation: People come to expect you to want everything done your way – they start second-guessing their every move, and lose the drive and excitement that’s needed for innovation.

Does any of this ring true to you? If you’ve noticed even one of these symptoms on your team, it’s time for a closer look at your leadership style. With a few important adjustments you’ll be able to develop a much more positive and productive organizational environment.

  1. Recognize the strengths and limitations of your team. Each person has their own unique talents.  You may want to learn how to coach people to bring out their strengths. Caution: this takes time and patience. Consider hiring an outside coach for a few months to work with your staff. This could reap great dividends in terms of improved results.
  2. Be aware of the exceptional talent on your team – make sure to create opportunities for those with leadership potential. Consider professional development opportunities. You have a much greater chance of retaining your superstars if you provide them with growth opportunities – and you will save time and money on replacing your key staff.
  3. Give constructive feedback. Your staff won’t know how to improve if you don’t provide them with meaningful information about their performance.
  4. Develop your own repertoire of leadership styles. Leading by example does have value in some circumstances – but there are several other styles of leadership that you can and should use, depending on the circumstances. For example, you need to be able to communicate the vision of your organization, help people see where their work fits into the whole, mentor people to bring out their best qualities, know the keys to motivation, and understand when and to use different styles.

So, leading by example, while it may seem admirable, even heroic, is not always the best approach. Use it sparingly and develop your leadership skills so that you can use a much broader repertoire. This will take time and effort, but I know you’ll find it’s worthwhile.

Cathy Ginsberg - People Focus Training Inc

Looking for more information about leadership styles and how your style impacts your effectiveness as a leader? Self-awareness is key.

Contact me for a free consultation where we’ll go over some of your key strengths and how these can translate into better results!

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