Four Ways to Lead by Example

Do you have a clear sense of direction and purpose that inspires and energizes you?  If not, you are most likely setting an unintentional tone for the day and influencing those around you…your mood and attitude are contagious and ripple through the organization.

How different your life becomes when you establish your purpose and use it as a framework for planning, setting goals and examining tasks and behaviors – when you become and do what matters most.  It involves the total person to discover total purpose. Where are you in your leadership journey?

These kinds of questions are what challenged the founder and owner of a company called Gravity Payments, Inc. in Washington State when he read a study on income and happiness.  Owner Dan Price made a startling discovery when he learned that people who make $70,000 per year are generally happier than those above and below that threshold.  Happier employees stay longer and are more productive, generating increased profitability.  What’s he doing now?  Considering the average salary at Gravity Payments was $48,000 per year with knowledge that many employees were struggling, he’s diving fully into that concept.  He’s started by slashing his own salary from nearly $1 million per year to $70,000 per year along with investing 75-80% of the company’s anticipated $2.2 million in profits to make this happen over the next three years to help employees reach that level of income and happiness.  He’s making a difference in the culture of his organization not to mention the lives of his people.

In The Economist, management guru Warren Bennis offered some great insights about leadership.  Bennis lists four competencies that leaders need to develop to lead effectively and profitably; you can see that Dan Price operated from this set of four principles:

First, leaders articulate a clear and compelling vision, that provides people with a bridge to the future.  They are visionary and capable of communicating that common vision to give people purpose and meaning.  It outlines the priorities and direction of the group.   In Price’s situation, he saw the need to help reduce the daily stressors and help people feel valued.

The happiness research behind Price’s decision is based on the work from Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist.  Emotional well-being — defined as “the emotional quality of an individual’s everyday experience, the frequency and intensity of experiences of joy, stress, sadness, anger, and affection that make one’s life pleasant or unpleasant” — rises with income, but only to a point.  As a leader, what you are doing to make a difference in the people who follow you?  It may not necessarily be money, but you CAN do things differently to enrich the lives of those around you.

Second, they act confidently and optimistically, giving meaning to that vision through communication.  The leader’s confidence, conviction and optimism is contagious; it rubs off on the followers.  A good leader is the lifeblood of any organization.

Price’s decision clearly sets a new tone for his organization and invigorates each and every employee at every level.

Third, they express confidence in their followers.  Great leaders have high confidence in people and make them feel good about themselves.  They foster confidence and optimism.   Building trust is key, “trust is the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work.”  In Price’s case, his act of taking his own income and the profits of his company instills a sense of confidence in his people that his actions will yield a big return to the benefit of all concerned.  When there is clear direction and enthusiasm, your team knows where it’s headed, understands what’s expected and gets the job done when they feel valued.  It’s a “both-gain” outcome in the end.

Lastly, they lead by example.   As a leader, all eyes are on you, whether or not you know it.  Regardless of how your employees truly feel about you, they still look to you as a role model.  Do your actions match your words?  Do you do what you say you are going to do?  Can they “trust” what you will say and do next?  Consistency and predictability are key to building trust.  Price’s actions are all about leading by example to instill trust in the people who work for him.

There’s a big difference between managing and leading.  A manager and a leader are two completely different roles, although we often use the terms interchangeably.  Managers get things done…leaders know how to get things done to move the business forward, to develop, and to nurture growth.  Another way of saying this is that managers do things right while leaders do the right thing!

One must learn to wear different hats when dealing with different circumstances and with different personalities as well as look at things from different perspectives.  Flexibility is key for a leader to lead effectively.  What’s important is that a leader knows how to tap the potential of their employees and knows how to customize the approach to help them become a better person in the end.

Unfortunately, too many executives don’t understand the difference and don’t work hard enough on building these leadership skills to invigorate and value people.  You can “manage” dozens of people, but you can “lead” millions.

In Daniel Goleman’s Leadership That Gets Resultsa landmark 2000 Harvard Business Review study, he and his team engaged 3,000 middle-level managers over a three-year period.   The research discovered that a manager’s leadership style was responsible for 30% of the company’s bottom-line profitability! Imagine how much money and effort a company spends on new processes, efficiencies, and cost-cutting methods in an effort to add even one percent to bottom-line profitability.  Compare that to efforts that simply inspire managers to be more kinetic with their leadership styles.  When we look at the cost of investment, it becomes a “no-brainer.”  Again, Price saw the answer in his company’s future growth through the value of investing in his people.

No matter what you’ve already achieved, no matter where you are in the organization, no matter what your leadership goals may be, you can profit from learning more about leadership excellence, your emotional intelligence, and leading by example.  Just like all of us know how to breathe, few of us do it really effectively.  Is this what happens to your leadership?  Do you realize how much you are setting the tone and leading by example that yield behaviors from employees that erode the bottom-line?  Invest now in YOU through leadership development services.

About the author:

Dr. Debra Dupree combines her workplace and family background by helping business professionals look at the cost of conflict, designing systems and solutions to strengthen performance and increase profitability.  Her experience is built upon many years of service as a Workplace Mediator/Consultant and today she specializes in business mediation and leadership services.

Email:  dr.dupree@relationships-at-work.com
Phone:  1-800-743-1973                    TWITTER:  @RTMcoach
Linked In:  www.linkedin/in/debradupreerelationshipcoach