Exceptional leaders are exceptional role models.
Leadership comes with great responsibility. And if you want to be a transformational leader, you must embody your values, walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
Research backs the idea that great leaders set a powerful example. As written the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, researchers wanted to determine how much a leader’s opinions, beliefs, and behaviors could influence their followers. According to the study, “Leaders, whose behavior is visible to followers, are in a particularly powerful position to influence their followers’ beliefs.”
Being a good role model doesn’t mean you have to be perfect or hide your flaws—just the opposite. No one is perfect, and we are all working to improve ourselves. People want to be inspired – the struggle and then triumph help them connect with you because it shows that you are a real person who goes through ups and downs, just like they do.
I know this to be true because I share my flaws openly, such as my desire to be recognized and the dangerous place it led me to in my 20s – a drug overdose and significant credit card debt. When I first shared this story with my management team during a team-building event many years ago, I was terrified they would judge me and wonder how I made it to executive management. But the opposite happened. It built trust and respect and allowed them to share their own deeply personal stories of adversity.
I admit when I make mistakes, such as last week when I overreacted to a situation that caused one of my best employees to second guess herself. We spent an hour reconciling, and I sent her flowers telling her how much I appreciated her. Even though the conversations were difficult, positive changes came from the situation.
On the flip side, I lead by example by being a good listener, bringing positivity and a can-do attitude to every situation, and giving and receiving feedback with grace and gratitude. I try to make people feel special during every interaction with me.
If you want to be a leader worth following, embody the behaviors and characteristics you want to see in others. Embrace your flaws and be honest about the setbacks and mistakes you’ve made on your journey to becoming a better person and leader. Show up with positivity, hard work, and a practice of self-care. I promise you, people are watching, and they will follow your lead when it comes to workplace behaviors, whether you want them to or not.
So how do you go about being a good role model? Here is a simple list for you to use to hold yourself accountable.
- Don’t procrastinate. When something needs to be done, do it.
- Follow through on your commitments. And if you can’t follow through because something changed, be honest and transparent.
- Take care of yourself, manage your stress and take time off when you need it.
- Apologize when you screw up.
- Examine your triggers and understand yourself – self-awareness is everything in leadership.
- Be empathetic and listen to what people are telling you.
- Accept feedback with a “thank you” and look for the truth in it.
- Show appreciation often; people need to know you see and value them.
- Never lie, cut corners, or cheat.
- Communicate transparently, clearly, and often.
- Be positive and stay cool, calm, and collected – even during stressful situations.
- Always exhibit integrity by putting the company and team first.
- Make time for your employees – meet with all of your direct reports weekly. Get to know them.
- Finally, always hold yourself accountable. You don’t have to be perfect, but you must always hold yourself to high standards.
If you do the things listed above, you’ll be on your way to being a positive role model, showing what it’s like to connect with your flaws, values, virtues, and work ethic. People want to follow this kind of leader.
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