A simple definition of what means to be leading by example could be that “authentic leaders align people around shared purpose and values, and empower them to lead authentically to create value for all stakeholders.”

“People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.” –Theodore Roosevelt

But serious leaders understand that both by design and default, they’re always leading by example. “A great personal brand isn’t an artificial construct. A great personal brand – like a great company brand – is authentic. (…) When a personal brand is an authentic extension of the real person and not an artificial construct, it inspires trust. (…) Which brings us back to leading by example.”

This means that true leaders, that believe in leading by example, focus their way to change things on a human-centered approach. How?
By following three simple rules: “Give employees freedom. Invest in their development. Build community.”
“Trust is based on action, not words. Give people the freedom to make meaningful decisions, to operate in a way that is most effective for them, and to simply do the right thing, and they will trust you. Why? Because first you trusted them.” Leaders prize emotional health overwork and wealth because they know two things:

  • 1- Peace of mind is too valuable to sell for any price;

  • 2- Abusers do not deserve loyalty.

Breaking the cycle is hard, but leading by example means that sometimes you will be singing a different song and you may very well be the only person singing it for a while.
With a certain level of mindfulness and respect, leaders bring their disruption. Creating space to, their team or other people surrounding them, contribute, participate and interact with their “song”- giving them autonomy and empowering them to be part of change projects and ideas. Leaders also nurture, the sense of competence of their team empowering them with skills and tools to self-initiate and master challenges.

For someone who understands that emotional health is too valuable to sell for any price it isn’t hard to understand that we can operationalise changes, but not all at once because of something called “change fatigue, the exhaustion that sets in when people feel pressured to make too many transitions at once”, leading to mental fatigue or even burnout. Once more - Abusers do not deserve loyalty.

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To sum up, leading by example is understanding that change is not perceived as something that is imposed from above, but rather as a collective activity that anyone can initiate. And for this reason leaders should support, empower and stimulate behaviors like: taking risks, assuming new responsibilities, letting go of old ways of thinking and doing thing’s, seeking feedback, asking for help, helping others, sharing information, suggesting improvements, experimenting, talking about errors and failure – those behaviours will help to bring up a climate marked by mutual respect, trust, and psychological safety.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast - If you do not invest time and resources in change management, people and cultural issues will eat all your anticipated synergies for breakfast—and your entire company for lunch.”