Ten Ways to Lead by Example
It should really go without saying but good leaders, well, they lead. The best business leaders set the standard with actions rather than words. They are the first one into the office, and the last out each day. They take on their fair share of workload and will be an advocate for the company inside and outside the office. But leading by example is a skill that needs to be honed like any other and it takes practice, discipline and self-motivation.
Here are a few tips on how to lead by example.
1. Take on your fair share of the workload
To gain the respect of your team and inspire greatness at your company, its important you lead from the front and take on your fair share of the workload. In today’s competitive business world, it is no longer acceptable to sit behind an office door and dictate – you need to prove your own ability and teach those around you by doing. Furthermore, if you can demonstrate to your team that you are putting in as much time and effort (if not more) than them, they are more likely to work harder for you and the business.
2. Listen to those around you
An important trait of any business leader is the ability to listen. Ask questions. Seek to understand and you’ll receive valuable insights and set a tone that encourages healthy dialogue. Communication is critical to the success of any company and if you as a leader take the time to promote open discourse, your employees will thrive and so will your business.
3. Take responsibility
Blame costs you your credibility, keeps team members on the defensive and ultimately sabotages real growth. As a business leader it’s critical you take responsibility for your own actions and encourage others to do the same. Create a team focused, collaborative environment to spark real growth at the business.
4. Take risks
Inspire change and innovation by taking calculated risks – it will demonstrate your commitment to a larger purpose and will breed a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. If those around you see you put your head above the parapet and be counted, they will be encouraged to do the same. This entrepreneurial mindset will catapult your business to new heights.
5. Find solutions not problems
Don’t dwell on problems; instead be the first to offer solutions and then ask your team to do the same. In business, you will come across problems, hurdles and challenges (they are unavoidable) but it’s how you overcome those problems as a team that will define your business.
6. Be honest with your team
Inaccurate representation affects everyone. Show that honesty really is the best policy and promote open, truthful and collaborative communication at your business. Honesty in all facets of business – success, failure, goals and changes – is crucial.
7. Identify the strengths of others
Astute business leaders and entrepreneurs are tuned into the people who work around them. If an employee is having a bad day, go easy on that person. Likewise, know when individual players are feeling fired up and motivated and challenge them accordingly.
Read more: Why Neural Leadership Could Boost Your Bottom Line
Pay attention to the people around you and give them responsibility in their area of strength or passion so they can develop as individuals. This will in turn help the company expand, diversify and grow. It will also make for a dynamic corporate culture.
8. Acknowledge failure
When you are running a business its not a case of if you make a mistake, but when. Failure is part of success, as long as you learn from it. If you acknowledge your own failure, it makes it all right for your team to do the same. The process will define failure as part of becoming extraordinary.
9. Promote a culture of wellbeing
Exercise, don’t overwork, take breaks, eat well and ensure you get enough sleep each night. A balanced team, mentally and physically, is a successful team. Model it, encourage it and support it.
Read more: Fighting Workplace Wellness
10. Be persistent
Try, try and then try again. Go over, under or around any hurdles to show that obstacles don’t define your company or team, rather your successes do. As a leader it is your duty to keep morale buoyant and encourage your team to keep plugging away towards the company’s end goals.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.