Team Management and How to Lead by Example

Team Management and How to Lead by Example

Leadership is often deemed as a divine gift by many. Some people are thought to be cut out for it while others are considered to be deprived of capabilities needed to lead a team. This isn’t entirely true! While some people are naturally capable of taking the pressure of leading a team better than others, no one can become a good leader without a few careful considerations. If you are wondering about the best methods for team management and how to lead by example, let us provide you with a few proven methods that have paved the way for making great leaders.

Why is it Important to Lead by Example?

Leadership can make or break an organization. Effective leaders can propel organizations to new heights, whereas inept leaders can ruin the most reputed businesses. In a poll published by Gallup in 2015, nearly 50% of American adults claimed to have left a job at some point in time due to their managers. In other words, it was the lack of good leadership which resulted in employees leaving their job.

Be it mental health, motivation at the workplace, teamwork or innovation, leadership has a role to play in bringing out the best in people. Similarly, inept leadership can result in quite the opposite, leaving employees demotivated and frustrated. For example, Walt Disney, the founder of the world’s largest entertainment company was fired from his job for ‘not being creative enough’.

Leadership is therefore important for both the employer and employees to make the most out of available resources. At a humane level, it must offer a decent working environment to employees. Leadership also goes beyond the workplace, since people leading voluntary or support groups and even sports teams need to have certain traits to ensure that the people they are leading are on the right track towards achieving something meaningful.

The Art to Lead by Example

Leading people is an art! The way you lead a team requires setting an example for others to follow. Leaders who are respected and admired are often extremely capable, hardworking and great at communicating their thoughts. Let’s take a look at a few traits that can help people in leadership positions to make better decisions to effectively lead a team by example. Here are 10 simple ways to lead by example:

1. Do the Heavy Lifting

No one likes a leader who sits around ordering things while he/she is not capable of doing the job on their own. Some examples of charismatic leaders from recent years has shown that people who do the heavy lifting are often admired by their subordinates. Be it captains leading a sports team, heads of the world’s top tech companies or people who led the most successful businesses in the world. Be it Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Jack Ma, all these individuals were known to work extremely hard and led the way for their employees by personal example.

A more recent example of a very successful leader is Elon Musk, who works more than 40 hours a week, sometimes even on weekends, sleeping at an average of 6 hours. In fact, Musk went as far as to say: ‘Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week’.

The Art to Lead by Example - do the heavy lifting

Source: Illustration by SlideModel.com

Not to mention, Musk is the founder and co-founder of various companies. Some of these organizations include Tesla Inc, SpaceX, The Boring Company, Neuralink and OpenAI. His leadership as a CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, as well as his expertise as an industrial engineer and technology entrepreneur has made him one of the most successful leaders in the world.

2. Respect Subordinates

While many of the world’s top CEOs have often been accused of not respecting their employees enough, others have been famous for introducing methods to ensure their employees are comfortable and motivated at the workplace. Employee motivation has often been the aim for many leaders at the workplace. A quote by Elon Musk sums up pretty much how a good leader can effectively motivate the people who follow him:

“People work better when they know what the goal is and why. It is important that people look forward to coming to work in the morning and enjoy working.”

A leader who mistreats his/her employees is likely to lose hardworking and talented employees, as well as demotivate his subordinates, leading to negative outcomes at the workplace. The opposite is true for a leader who knows how to keep employees happy and motivated. This does not imply accepting all types of subordinate demands and falling prey to manipulation by cunning subordinates but making sure that the people you are leading feel respected and are motivated enough to work under your leadership.

3. Be Open to Ideas

Many leaders can make the mistake of underestimating subordinates or their good ideas due to personal insecurities or ego. This can be the ruin of a leader, as no one can do it all alone. A team is called a team for a reason, i.e. to contribute towards the success of what it works for. And ideas are a part of reaching desired goals. A leader must be open to ideas and must not behave like someone who knows everything because no one does!

4. Admit Mistakes

Many times, when you’re angry at someone a simple ‘sorry’ can make things better. Everyone makes mistakes and leaders are no exception. Admitting a mistake does not make you weak but can help you gain the respect of your subordinates for being honest. A research titled The bright and dark sides of leader traits: A review and theoretical extension of the leader trait paradigm determined that narcissistic managers have a negative impact at the workplace, as compared to leaders with ‘integrity’.

Related article: Toxic Leadership at Workspace

The research suggests that narcissistic leaders are likely to buckle under pressure and harm their team. The traits of effective leaders suggested in the research include integrity, which allows creating a fair and just environment for workers. Such leaders were also found to be emotionally intelligent and remained calm under stressful situations.

5. Plan and Leave Room for Course Correction

One of the traits identified of an effective leader is their ability to guide their teams viz a viz competition. This can be done when a leader has thought through a plan and leaves space for correction.

A research published in the Global Journal of Management and Business Research titled, How Effective Leadership can Facilitate Change    in Organizations through Improvement and Innovation’ suggests that every employee’s attitude and behavior is different and can affect the organization. For example, some might adapt to change while others might cling to negative tendencies by resisting change and exhibiting toxic behavior. An effective leader must plan and manage these issues. There are various ways by which a leader can manage such behavior, such as by using a reward and punishment mechanism, pep talk and by helping out his subordinates to adapt to change. Supporting an employee in a difficult situation can also go a long way in earning his/her respect and improving their motivation.

At the end of the day a good leader must plan meticulously and account for its team’s behavior. He has to take the bitter with the sweet and manage the varying tendencies of his subordinates and make adjustments where needed.

6. Give the Team Some Creative Freedom

Some employees can be marred by their managers, crushing their ideas and good work with their incompetence and narcissism. Giving freedom to employees to express their ideas to work freely can do wonders. Tech companies like Google often provide their workforce with the necessary creative freedom to move forward with ventures, be it app development or the daily Google Doodle. Google employees have often stated that the creative freedom given to them helps them do their job more effectively.

Google has a 20% rule which allows its employees to spend 20% time on side projects, which is why Google remains one of the most innovative companies in the world. This rule was introduced by Google Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 2004 (see here), which goes on to show how creative freedom provided by leadership can be an effective way in motivating a team and bringing the best out of them.

Lead by Example - Follow the Leader

Source: Illustration by SlideModel.com

7. Don’t Overburden Team Members

Hardworking team members can often be marred by overwork. The best employees can be made to pick up the tab for incompetent or less efficient coworkers. Many times, there is a lot of deep-rooted politics which results in this behavior, adding to additional physical and mental strain for hardworking employees and a license to be lazy for others.

Deloitte’s external marketplace survey consisting of full-time employees in the United States stated that 77% respondents claimed to have been burned out at their current job, whereas 64% complained of frequent stress. Nearly half of all millennials claimed to have left a job due to burnout. To avoid losing competent team members, it is essential to manage their workload. Even if an organization has lofty targets, it is the duty of the leader to find ways to give his/her team members adequate time to relax and manage their workload. Managers also need to make a strong case for giving time off to team members before the senior management (learn more about this survey here).

8. Take Time to Relax

No one is immune to burnout and leaders are no exception. While it is important to give your team time to relax, the same applies to a leader. A leader must find ways to take the necessary time off to unwind and turn off work. Furthermore, he/she must also ensure that there are competent subordinates left behind to ensure that they can hold the fort in their absence.

9. Help Your Team Grow

Once you work long enough in any profession, you must come across bosses looking to inflate their own salaries at the cost of their subordinates. Be it CEOs, managers or team leads, every professional is likely to come across such an individual due to the infinite number of narcissistic leaders plaguing modern day workplaces. A good leader does not hide or downplay the success of his/her subordinates but rather helps them grow and climb the ladder. The motivation to grow at an organization can bring the best out of employees, giving them a sense of belonging and create a conducive environment for a successful team.

Illustration of a leader supporting an employee to grow

Source: Illustration by SlideModel.com

10. Develop a Relationship with Team Members Beyond the Workplace

A true leader is not just someone you meet at the workplace but rather someone you look up to, trust and admire. True leadership requires not just a mechanical relationship with your team but also developing relationships that are meaningful. Many leaders act as lifelong mentors for their subordinates, even when they have switched jobs. They develop a relationship beyond the workplace with the people they lead. You don’t necessarily have to be best friends with team members, but a little empathy can go a long way. Knowing when your team member is stressed because of losing a loved one or making them a part of your happy memories by inviting them to your child’s birthday might make all the difference.

Leaders who are apathetic can be left out in the rain in testing times by their team members. Remember, if you don’t care about them, why should they?

Final Words

Being an effective and successful leader requires a few basic traits such as, hard work, good planning, perseverance, empathy, stress management and integrity. While some people can have certain advantages such as a high IQ, access to better education and training, social standing, personal contacts and experience, these are not enough to make a good leader.

People who start with very little in leadership positions can often end up becoming great leaders, be it Walt Disney who founded The Walt Disney Company,  Larry Page and Sergey Brin who started Google from a garage or George Soros, who became one of the most successful investors in the world.

Not all managers are leaders and just because you have a designation attached to your name does not mean you are truly in charge. There can be times when even the most empathetic leaders might need to resort to tough measures by opting for a specific leadership style, as explained in our guide about Leadership Styles: What Type of Style Should You Adopt.

Regardless of what many people believe, no one has it all figured out. Leaders go through highs and lows in their lives, as well as face challenges in managing subordinates, targets and expectations from stakeholders. An effective leader knows how to rise above petty issues to keep his/her eyes on the goal, as well as be empathetic enough to understand the needs of subordinates and his/her own. All this does not necessarily come from a high IQ but rather some experience, trial and error, hard work and integrity.

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