When you think of “leading by example” what does that mean to you?
Does it mean doing more, being more, and giving more than those around you? Being the first to show up and the last to leave? Never asking someone to do more than you’re doing yourself?
There is, undoubtedly, a noble work-ethic tied to this approach to leadership. Plus, it is instantly quantifiable — if you get into a kerfuffle with those you’re leading you can just point to your time card and prove to them that you care more because you’re working more.
But something I’ve been thinking on for the past several months is this:
Are there other ways to lead by example?
At what point do you stop doing more, being more, and giving more?
At what point do you draw the line to say that you’re doing enough, being enough, and giving enough?
As a leader: What do you need in order to be around for the long run?
What are the things that ONLY YOU can do?
I believe leading by example should mean prioritizing your life without apology. It should mean you’re courageous enough to choose to do what you know to be right instead of doing what the peer pressure and/or company culture is.
Lead by example of how to work SMARTER, not harder.
What’s difficult about this type of “servant leadership” is that it’s less quantifiable. It’s not so easy for people to see you leading by example of your healthy balance between family, health, and office hours. (All they see is that you’re not working on the weekends and you clock out at a normal hour.)
But this type of leadership style plays to the long game. It takes time time to see the rewards of the choices you are making now to keep your work life from swallowing your personal life.
It’s easier to lead by the example of doing more because everyone can see you doing more. It’s not so easy to lead by example of doing “less” or “different” because those things are more internal, personal, and far less quantifiable.
What’s great about this alternative of leading by example is this…
It dignifies those around you.
When you choose to live a healthy life, to have boundaries, and to “work smarter” rather than “harder” then the byproduct is that your co-workers and your team feel trusted.
When you treat yourself with respect, you will also treat those around you the same — as the smart, valuable, and self-motivated adults that they are.