Self-awareness can be one of the most difficult things to come to terms with. How can you tell if you are really leading by example? Ask yourself these two questions.
Most leaders like to believe they lead by example, but how do you objectively analyze this statement without letting your individual biases get in the way? If you ask any manager in a top company whether they lead by example, an overwhelming number would say yes.
It is critically important, however, to understand if you are really leading by example. Unfortunately, you alone cannot be the sole determiner of this question. You need to solicit feedback from your employees, fellow managers and from your bosses to gain more clarity. You may even need an external source, such as a third party, a spouse or an acquaintance, to give you an honest, complete answer.
Are you leading from the front or leading from behind?
Leading from the front refers to the practice of staying ahead of employees and providing clear direction on how they should proceed. Leading from behind involves staying behind the team, letting the smartest, or most reliable, employees lead the way, slowly nudging the group in the right direction if they venture off course.
The very best leaders adopt a mixture of both styles. In certain situations, such as when you have a team full of new or inexperienced employees, you will need to rely more heavily on the former method. A leader typically judges his or her strategy as required by the situation, and some reflection will allow you to determine where you fall on the spectrum.
Do you build teams rather than cultivate followers?
In a traditional sense, leaders need to act as vision-creators and direction setters, and all managers need to be prepared for such a role. However, there is only so much one person can do.
As a leader, if you want your team to produce something truly wonderful or original, you cannot direct them every step of the way, as the traditional model of leadership just does not work in such a scenario. This is especially true where innovation is a prerequisite and, as a shepherd, your job is to harness the collective brainpower at your disposal for ultimate activity and business growth.
However, leaders are also constrained by their organization's need to have their back. Harnessing the collective genius of several employees involves allowing team members to make mistakes. It also involves providing suitable resources required for development and knowing what to direct and what not to direct.
When a leader is able to do this, they are building a strong community rather than creating a culture where followers thrive by merely appeasing the manager. In order to build a community, a leader and an organization must ensure that capabilities such as creative abrasion, creative resolution, and creative agility, exist and thrive in order to reach the desired transformational effect.