The Path to Leading by Example

No matter what industry you’re a part of, chances are you’ve had to deal with seemingly unreasonable demands and double standards from your direct supervisors, bosses, and clients. Perhaps, you’ve been contacted after-hours to make adjustments to your company’s impending press release the next day. Or your work environment has grown increasingly tense because your boss is nerve-wracked about a business venture, and has a propensity to vent his/her frustrations to their employees by way of veiled threats and unnecessary vitriol. Or you and your coworkers are facing possible termination because of budget cuts while the CEO is busy purchasing another company. A discouraged or irritated boss can markedly affect the work environment, indirectly affecting work performance and overall morale.

In his work Politics, Aristotle writes, “He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.” Though it’s easy to commiserate with the begrudged employee in these circumstances, positions of leadership can exact an emotional and psychological toll, especially in periods of duress. Leaders are relied on to guide the company through calm and rough seas, embody its mission statement, and to oversee the completion of major projects. The responsibilities increase exponentially the higher you are on the food chain, and for those who’ve never held a subordinate position may not understand the ramifications of his/her general mood and behavior to their employees. Luckily, there are proven ways of assisting those in managerial and administrative roles to acclimate to the demands of their respective positions while maintaining and fostering a positive workspace.

Though training is often viewed from the lens of employees, it should actually begin from the top down in the business hierarchy, from administers to new hires. The reason behind leadership training and coaching lies with the fact that company trailblazers and visionaries often find themselves unable to adequately communicate their directives succinctly. The problem increases exponentially in companies with large infrastructures, as a directive that is passed down a chain of command through multiple departments may obfuscate the original instruction. Uniformity and transparency are key components to any organizational structure, and leadership training and coaching programs typically emphasize both.

Many of these training programs also underscore the concept of leading by example. While this may seem like an obvious notion, it’s also one of those notions that are easier said than done. Leading by example necessitates a healthy compartmentalization of personal and business interrelations as well as a keen awareness of how one’s behavior and general mood can set the tone of working conditions. A temperamental CEO who has vacillating moods contingent on the weekly productivity of a given venture will likely cause his/her employees to similarly react, breeding discontent one week and general satisfaction the next. It can feel significantly difficult to maintain a consistent upbeat attitude, especially if you’re incredibly invested in your work. The fact that bosses are hold positions of extreme scrutiny doesn’t help the situation either.

One of the first steps to leading by example is prioritizing the emotional welfare of your company before yourself. If a business is undergoing a particularly difficult transition, the way that a boss processes and deals with the strain has manifold influences on how everyone else learns to manage pressure. A boss who maintains composure during periods of duress establishes a precedent for everyone he/she comes in contact with. This can lead to consistent productivity in spite of taxing circumstances, foster a deeper sense of community and camaraderie, and garner further respect for executives. The following words on leadership are credited to Dwight D. Eisenhower:

“Character in many ways is everything in leadership. It is made up of many things, but I would say character is really integrity. When you delegate something to a subordinate, for example, it is absolutely your responsibility, and he must understand this. You as a leader must take complete responsibility for what the subordinate does. I once said, as a sort of wisecrack, that leadership consist of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.”

To learn more about the process of innovation, be sure to visit Robert’s Rules of Innovation. Also, don’t forget to look out for Robert’s Rules of Innovation II, “The Art of Implementation”.