The importance of leading by example before you can lead others.
By Nikki Fogden-Moore.
Engaging leadership is born to some and learned by others. Whether you’re a CEO, a senior manager or an entrepreneur, the skill in managing change and nurturing accountability throughout your organisation is to ensure you have the business-vitality leadership trifecta:
- Lead from within.
- Lead by example.
- Lead others.
In my experience working with CEOs and entrepreneurs over the past 15 years, no matter what size of business, these three pillars of true leadership build trust, create unity and empower others. It’s not just a matter of having vision and giving direction; it’s showing an authentic connection to the why and engaging teams at all levels along the way.
- Leading from within
There’s an art to running a sustainable, well-performing company of any size. Creating a positive and lasting culture shift in any organisation requires strategy, vision and a strong action plan – leading from the top down. It doesn’t mean you must be an expert in all areas of business, but it does mean you need to be connected to the strategy and applied your own experience. Great leaders continue to learn and hone their skills, keep informed and look for fresh ideas. They test out their theory, do their research and believe in the plans they are putting in place. Ask questions, get informed and ask yourself, ‘Am I willing to do this as well?’ Have you walked the talk?
- Leading by example
It’s not the office walls, the plaque outside or the stationery you have your logo on; it’s the people factor. More importantly, it’s the leader factor. Great leaders demonstrate the change they want to see and engage their teams and company by leading by example, before they lead others. If you don’t walk the talk and demonstrate by example with consistency and integrity, then how can you expect those that work with you, and/or for you, to do the same? This is especially imperative in cross-division engagement and team cohesiveness. Middle and upper management have the power to lead by example if they can leave the fear of ‘job theft’ and being shown up aside and learn the art of authentic leadership and recognition.
Know your strengths, identify productive alliances and show open communication with your management and executive team. With your direct reports, share your why, show the journey and practise what you preach.
- Leading others.
When we’ve truly led from within and by example, we have a clear platform to genuinely lead others. This builds trust and credibility. I like to call it ‘earning stripes’. People will follow leaders who truly believe in the principles and best practice they are handing down.
Ask yourself what it will take to roll out the new culture or process. Have you tried and tested the roadmap with your senior team and know the ‘why’ with clarity and conviction? Plan your rollout and the buy-in. How can you make change, growth and development as seamless as possible, and recognised as crucial, while getting accountability at all levels? By ensuring you have a plan on how you’re going to lead others:
- Stay connected to this initiative and monitor its progress.
- Get feedback and navigate roadblocks efficiently.
- Empower others to implement the changes required.
As a CEO, do a chemistry check. Are your executive team truly on board and communicating with clarity and conviction? Where are the roadblocks? Are the new policies clearly demonstrated and backed up by examples from senior decision-makers?
The ultimate step as a manager or leader is recognising that your actions speak louder than words. Do you truly believe in the merits and demonstrate this with consistency and lead by example? This element of leadership applies to all projects, and at home just as much as in the business. When we find a way to practise what we preach and share experiences with others in ways they can find it relevant and applicable, the results can be amazing.
Think of the leaders you admire and the natural ability they have to be visionary, demonstrate their conviction and inspire others to follow their lead. Something powerful happens when change from within is combined with leading from within – a sense of personal accountability and experience can create connection and engagement across all levels of an organisation. It usually starts from the top down.
“Great leaders don’t tell you what to do, they show you how it’s done.” (Anon)
Nikki Fogden-Moore specialises in coaching high achievers to bring business and personal vitality to life. She runs tailored corporate-vitality programs, Boardroom Retreats, writes for several business magazines, is the Head Trainer for Women’s Health and Fitness Magazine and has been operating leadership and private retreats for more than a decade internationally. You can contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org or www.thevitalitycoach.com.au. Her podcast, The Vitality Coach, is free on iTunes and downloaded in more than 80 countries.