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To Be a Good Role Model You Need to Lead by Example

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Alexander the Great quote on Leadership


I love the above quote from Alexander the Great about the capabilities of armies that are led by a Sheep and those led by a Lion because it succinctly sums up the impact a leader has on his followers simply through his skills and ability to inspire his army to greatness.

In my view, it also sums up the essence of leading by setting an example.

Anyone can be a leader, but to be a successful leader who inspires followers to achieve their potential is the challenge.

A leader has to accept that his or her success ultimately depends upon the people that they are supposed to lead and this means creating an environment conducive to individual and team goal success.

To a great extent, this depends upon the example set by the Leader whose behavior sets the tone and creates the culture for a team or organization.

Whether you’re head of a large corporation or head of your family core, the best way to lead is by example.

It builds trust and admiration and you can easily get much more accomplished in a shorter amount of time. It’s especially helpful for team leaders to lead by example so they can rally and inspire the group to victory.


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During my corporate career days, the best examples of bosses I noticed were the ones who distinguished themselves between managers and leaders. They were the ones who allowed their team to fulfill their potential but were not afraid to jump into the trenches and teach their team when required.

It’s the Leadership Style that I adopted when I had the opportunity to differentiate myself from a mere manager and a true leader.

I stumbled upon concept of being a good role model and leader by chance.

In my case it started with applying eyeliner!

When I joined an Energy vertical MNC as their Finance Manager in India, I was the first Indian woman in a managerial position. We had a British woman Director who was on a posting to India but the women staff perhaps related better to me based on culture and nationality.

Among the female workforce in the office, I was the only one who wore eyeliner because I liked it and it helped to enhance my eyes (it’s called feminine vanity, I suppose). Within a month, I noticed ALL the younger women using eyeliner, whether it suited the shape of their eyes or not!

We emulate people whom we admire or whom we believe to be successful and while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the deeper impact is its influence on our behavior and conduct.

Of course I was flattered but I also realized my responsibility of being a role model to a younger generation of women professionals.

My formal power base came from my position in the organization but it seemed my informal power base was Referent. (Read about the 5 power bases in my post, How to exercise genuine power like a Leader).

Referent power is similar to role model power. It depends on holding the other person in high esteem and usually develops over time.

Now that I was aware that others were watching and being influenced by my behavior and perhaps makeup style, I had to ask myself, what kind of example did I want to set?

One thing that I was sure of was that I didn’t want to create an army of clones. Each professional is entitled to create their own power base and leadership style.

For me, leading by example meant setting an example of professionalism and using my actions to influence my colleagues to behave and respond in ways that would benefit the company while also helping them to achieve their career goals.

While I don’t have the perfect formula, I believe there are ways that we can create a difference as caring leaders.

It starts with walking our talk and becoming a person others want to follow. When leaders say one thing, but do another, they erode trust–a critical element of productive leadership.


Role Model Leaders aren't scared to show the way to their followers, are you?


9 Ways to Lead by Example – no matter who you’re trying to lead:


  1. While actions speak louder than words, you still need to watch what you say. Words can have a serious impact on morale and enthusiasm. A few words from a leader can discourage a team and make it difficult for them to show support and meet goals.


  1. Honor the chain of command. While you may not agree with some of the decisions handed down from the upper chain of command, you must respect it at all times to set a good example. Otherwise, confusion and chaos may occur and the structural elements of the team will begin to fall apart.


  1. Develop sensitivity and take special interest in others. Everyone has a bad day sometimes – and you should be sensitive to those days when your employee or subordinate just isn’t doing the job up to par. Rather than showing criticism, show sensitivity. Also, make others on your team feel special and compliment often, when possible.


  1. Be prudent in choosing your battles. Don’t concentrate your efforts on the little conflicts which arise among team members. Instead, put your efforts into the more important decisions which must be made. Otherwise, you’ll be constantly drained from non-consequential battles.


  1. As a leader, it’s your job to know what’s going on at all times. Don’t be so busy giving orders and guidance that you miss listening to your team members and actually hear the advice they offer. Even though you may be an expert in what you do, you can’t know everything. There may be a few good team members who can teach you a thing or two and provide great feedback about your team.


  1. Don’t take your team for granted. Your team makes you look good – so never take one or all of them for granted, but consider each as an important asset to what you desire to accomplish. Also, assume (until you’re shown differently) that each person on the team is a good and honest person who you can trust and rely on.


  1. Do the work you ask of others. Be ready to pitch in when needed and even when you aren’t. It shows a team that you are a member, even though you’re the leader and builds trust and confidence in the other team members. You’ll also gain knowledge and learn some skills that you may not be privy to if you’re constantly giving orders.


  1. Take responsibility for your actions and decisions. Playing blame games impacts your credibility and keeps team members on the defensive which ultimately sabotages real growth.


  1. Acknowledge failure and give your team to do the same. Failure is the other side of success and depending upon how we view define failure, we have the ability to use it as a stepping stone to future success.


When you strive to set a good example for others, you won’t go won’t go wrong in your life’s choices. Like Alexander the Great leading his men into battle, you’ll inspire greatness in your company.

Spend a few minutes thinking about leaders in your organization who have influenced you in a positive way.

What did they do or not do and how did that impact you and your behavior? Has this affected your own behavior and the impact you have on people around you?


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20 Responses to “To Be a Good Role Model You Need to Lead by Example”

  1. Laura says:

    Great tips and reminders for this leader. Thank you.

  2. Love this!
    I taught in a behavior school for 10 years.
    I was always telling my students to “lead by example – show ’em how it’s done” when they would complain about another kid’s behavior.
    This post is fantastic!
    Thanks 🙂

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thank you Latrelle. As seniors in school, out teachers would say the same thing to us. I believe it put the onus on the senior school children to become role models for the younger students.

  3. Leila says:

    Thank you for sharing Vatsala.
    These are helpful tips. Very helpful.

  4. Vijaya says:

    Great post with valuable insights.

  5. CK Kochis says:

    Well said. I’ve worked for the managers that demanded “do as I say”, and the managers that dug in and got their hands dirty beside their crew. Your 9 Ways list is insightful. May we all lead with our hearts, and not by fear. Thank you for all you do to make this a better world.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      I never liked the “do as I say” kind of bosses, Cindy, because I felt it undermined my intelligence. There was one who’s attitude was ‘my way or the highway’. The team stuck it out as he had a lot of expertise and one could have learned from him but when an opportunity arose to leave, the team member took the highway. 🙂

  6. Reba Linker says:

    This is such a brilliant post, Vatsala. I totally agree that the tome of an organization is set by the leader. I really appreciate your point about not leading only by actions, but also through your words. Language is so powerful. It should rightly count as an action, when it comes to leading others. I believe that this point is often missed, in the effort to emphasize the importance of walking your talk. I guess one has to also talk their walk!

  7. I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about my own capacity for leadership. At the moment, I am learning about team building with a team that I work with, depend upon, but am not their manager. I am finding it to be a fascinating process. Not that long ago, I don’t think I could have appreciated the process, them, their manager or myself to the depth that I do at the moment.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      We all have latent leadership potential, Meghan, that comes out when the need of the hour requires it. Enjoy the journey as you discover your personal leadership style.

  8. Heather says:

    Leadership came up for me earlier this week with one of the Oracle Cards I chose. So did the message of being a good role model. The angels and the Universe see us. They want the best for this world. I think we can always be someone who sets an example. I have always felt that way.

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Indeed the Angels are right, Heather. We set examples even when we don’t intend to as I did with the eyeliner. 🙂 What’s more important is to set a good example that will inspire others to be good leaders.

  9. Katherine says:

    I’ve done a lot of thinking recently about leadership, and especially feminine leadership. One of the thoughts I’ve always had about my own leadership was that I was caught in a paradox between wanting to be a strong leader, and wanting to stay invisible. I’m very good at encouraging others to step forward in leadership roles and saw that as a deficit. But then i had a revelation and realized it’s one of my leadership strengths. I’m a connector and a helper and I do it well. So we all have to find our own authentic style in leadership. Your post is a perfect fit for that perspective. Thank you!

    • Karmic Ally says:

      Thank you for sharing your perspective and insights with us, Katherine. I gather mentoring is your true forte and the skill with which you authentically lead others.

  10. Jeremy says:

    People often overcomplicated leadership. Like you’ve said it’s as simple as showing respect and setting a good example. It reminds me of this quote from Lao Tzo, “the reason that rivers and seas receive the homage of a hundred mountain streams is that they keep below them. Thus they are able to reign over the mountain streams. So the sage, wishing to be above men, putteth himself behind them. Thus, though his place be above men, they don’t feel his weight; though his place be before them, they don’t count it as an injury.”

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