Most of us have come across charismatic and engaging people. And once you are in a leadership role, what you do and say influences others. But you don't have to be the most dynamic and extroverted person to be a good role model. How to become a good role model at its core is simple, if you keep true to yourself.
Actions are much more effective than words, and this is particularly relevant to the field of leadership. Paying attention to your own behaviour, and modelling this, is arguably the most powerful tool for culture change.
Good role model: Definition and importance
Setting a good example for your staff helps inspire and drive them to emulate your actions, attributes, and behaviours. Your values and attitudes define the standard for what you expect from others. That is the art of how to become a good role model. No tricks, just authenticity.
Followers observe the leader and subconsciously follow their cue. Negative role models will set the tone for a negative corporate culture. A surly or disrespectful manager is likely to have surly and disrespectful employees. Similarly, if you cut corners, or are disorganised, your staff are likely to follow suit in exactly the same way. For example, if you value quality but ignore an obvious error, you have just set a new quality benchmark! Ignoring something is also accepting it.
So a business will reflect its leadership values. As a leader it is up to you to create a positive, focused, and caring team. If you work on becoming calm, positive, approachable, and diligent, then that is what your team will model. Merely saying what you want but not practicing it, will not help achieve your objectives. The disparity between your words and actions creates mixed-messages and obstacles. Or at worst conflict and mistrust. This is equally true for parents, as role models, or coaches.
How to become a good role model in the workplace
Leaders are constantly being observed by their staff, customers and peers. So you will be measured by both your words and behaviours. The following traits can help you become a better role model:
A good leader needs be able to practice humility to be able to learn and grow. This involves asking for assistance when you need it, and being comfortable with not being the smartest person in the room.
A leader who works hard and does not shy away from duties that are 'beneath' them. This shows your team that a 'this-is-not-my-job-description' mentality is not acceptable.
Show enthusiasm when it comes to sharing knowledge and working towards company goals. Doing this reduces the inclination to guard information. Sharing knowledge also encourages an organisational culture of transparency and synergy within the organisation.
Trust and integrity:
Always demonstrate trustworthiness, fairness and consistency in your dealings. Avoid indulging in gossip, bullying, or harassment of any kind. Even jokingly.
A good manager displays respect to every employee, regardless of the position. Doing this helps set the tone for courtesy and civility. In those moments where you have to provide negative feedback, do it in private. This demonstrates you can maintain your respect for individuals, even in the tough moments. Staff will also adopt a respectful attitude towards each other when it comes to settling differences and resolving conflicts. If they do not, it is your job as role model to call it out as unacceptable behaviour.
Resilience and strength:
Persist in the face of adversity, and show you do not give up easily. Tackle problems with a sense of urgency and focus, but also courage and calmness. Resilient behaviour will inspire your team to deal effectively with high-stress situations more calmly.
[Want to learn more about resilience? See our article here.]
Effective leadership involves taking responsibility for decisions and mistakes. Refrain from blaming others. Your employees will also display increased accountability levels.
Confidence and positivity:
No, you do not have to smile all the time. But a confident, optimistic, and upbeat leader is more inspiring to followers than a nervous or negative one.
While it is important to always stick to your values and beliefs, it is important to be able to adapt to different circumstances and look for pragmatic solutions.
A compassionate manager helps create a kind and empathetic work environment. Things do not always go well for people, inside and outside of work. Showing understanding and making allowances for people is not a sign of weakness.
Additional tips on becoming a positive role model
If you want to inspire your team, you can also try modelling the following behaviours:
Maintain a healthy work-life balance
A healthy work-life balance promotes physical, mental and emotional benefits. A workaholic stressed boss is likely to have workaholic and stressed employees. This leads to burn-out and counter-productive results. As far as possible, avoid staying long hours after work or pressing your staff to give up their free time.
Adopt a people-centric approach
A leader a people-centric approach demonstrates value and appreciation for their people. They care about their well-being. Your team will also follow suit, and the combined effort will create a healthy working environment.
[Want to learn more about people-centred leaders? See our article on Servant Leadership].
Recognise unconscious bias
You can become a positive agent for change by identifying unconscious bias and taking steps to eliminate it. Showing respect and acceptance for others different from you, inspires others to adopt the same open attitude. Focus on building a non-judgemental, open-minded culture that does not encourage stereotypes. A forward-thinking, fair and inclusive leader paves the way for a diverse, free-thinking organisation.
[Want to know how to recognise unconscious bias? See our related article here].
It is impossible for leaders to model behaviours that are inconsistent with their values and beliefs. Trying to be someone you are not only undermines your credibility. People see through it. It also prevents you from living up to your own standards. Making sure your own words, behaviour, and actions align with your moral code draws likeminded people to you. Increased self-awareness helps you understand your attitudes, values and expectations and helps you become a good role model.
The Character Gap: How Good Are We – C Miller (Audio Book)