Leadership by Example

This blog post is a continuation from a previous one called Leading Leaders

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world”

Mahatma Gandhi

Everything you do as a leader is watched, assumed or guessed at.  People will copy your behaviors. Your behaviors are contagious.  People will guess at what you are thinking, they will interpret your facial tics and what they think it means.  The absence of your behavior or body language will also be interpreted by those with any level of emotional intelligence. Your behavior, intended or not, is contagious. And people will copy it or comment on it.

Steve Blank recently wrote a good example for how contagious perceived leadership behavior can be, in the following post Leadership is More Than a Memo.

It’s so important to practice what you preach and set the example: You can preach respect and integrity all you want; it won’t mean a thing when you ignore someone’s opinion.

There are many traits that you need to model as a leader. Your thoughts, ideas, and values can’t stay in your head, they need to be expressed in actions and behaviors so others can see them.

You will often need to combine otherwise conflicting traits such as confidence and humbleness, or find balance in a particular trait like empathy. Too much confidence will can lead to assumptions of arrogance, and too much humbleness will lead people to think you are timid, weak, and uncertain. Too much empathy can overwhelm a person, whereas too little empathy can lead others to believe that their relationship with you is artificial.

You need to be adaptable to be able to communicate at a high bandwidth with different individuals. So the words, thoughts, and ideas you share with one person may look different than the way you share it with someone else. The balance changes for every set of people, and even how a person is responding to you that day. If you are looking for a job that is consistent, leadership is not it.

While variance and adaptability is a key part to leadership, as a leader you need to consistently model particular traits in order to build trust. The following traits and topics will overlap.

“Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.”

Harold S. Geneen

Each trait will have some quick points, quotes, some will have thoughts, for you to think about and questions for you to answer, as well as a collection of resources I have found helpful.

As I keep learning about humans, grammar and leadership I will update this post from time to time.

Leadership Traits

These are traits that people who follow you will appreciate in seeing. Each is in its own blog post:

  1. Approachability
  2. Being Authentic
  3. Showing Empathy
  4. Being Transparent
  5. Showing Appreciation
  6. Being humble
  7. Showing Accountability
  8. Show that you respect Time
  9. A growth mindset for your people
  10. Clear Communication
  11. Inspiration
  12. Good at Influencing others
  13. Stability (Protecting your Mental Health)
  14. That you Learn and grow
  15. That you respect Diversity
  16. That you can make Decisions
  17. That you are Coachable
  18. That you build Trust/Psychological Safety

You may think after reading this list, you are all good, that you cover all of these traits. The reality is that we, like any of us, in the human race will NOT be able to get the right mix of all of these things, all the time. You are a human being, not Supergirl, even she makes mistakes.

Look up Dunning-Kruger effect or The Dunning-Kruger Effect Shows Why Some People Think They’re Great Even When Their Work Is Terrible or

People Don’t Actually Know Themselves Very Well.

Being truly self aware is hard and how we impact people with the unintended ripples in the pond that spread beyond us, from the words that were uttered when tired or triggered. Again you are a human being, unless you are an AI..

We will make mistakes because we are human, and we have 191+ cognitive biases, and that we have not encountered every type of person (in every state in their life, or every culture), or every type of project.

What makes Leadership better (not easier) is talking, sharing, learning, having a coach, having a mentor, being in the room with people different perspectives. What makes leadership amazing is growing a culture of psychological safety throughout your team, department, organization and maybe one day the world. That is a another blog post(s) for another time.

I truly welcome your thoughts, experiences and perspectives. Share them so we all become better.


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