Leading by Example vs Role Model - What's the Difference?

As a leadership coach and entrepreneur with over two decades of experience, I’ve seen first-hand how effective leadership can drive success in both individual and organizational contexts.

In this blog post, I will discuss the importance of leading by example and being a role model and what differentiates the two.

I’ll share practical strategies on how to develop these essential leadership skills and how you can get started.

By the end of this blog post, you will have a clear sense of the differences between the two concepts, as well as how they can be applied in both personal and professional contexts.

Let’s begin.

What Does Leading By Example Mean?

As a leader or entrepreneur, it’s essential to understand what it means to lead by example. Leading by example means that you embody the values and behaviors that you expect from your team members. It’s a leadership approach that’s grounded in modeling the behavior that you want to see from others.

Definition of Leading by Example

Leading by example means that you don’t just pay lip service to your values, but you demonstrate them in your actions. It’s about showing rather than telling your team members how to act or behave in the workplace. Leading by example is an effective way to build trust and respect among your team members.

Characteristics of Effective Leaders Who Lead by Example

Effective leaders who lead by example display the following characteristics:

  1. They are transparent and honest with their team members.
  2. They are reliable and consistent in their performance.
  3. They are approachable and accessible to their team members.
  4. They are team-oriented and prioritize the success of the team over individual success.
  5. They are self-aware and actively seek feedback to improve their performance.
  6. They are committed to their values and demonstrate them in their actions.

To lead by example, you must be intentional about your behavior and actions. Your team members will learn from your example and follow your lead. If you set a positive example for your team, they are more likely to emulate your behavior and uphold your values.

In the next section, I’ll discuss the concept of role models and how it differs from leading by example.

What Makes Someone A Good Role Model?

As a leader, being mindful of your own behavior is crucial. But have you ever wondered what it takes to be a good role model? In this section, we define what makes someone a good role model and highlight key characteristics of role models that can make them effective.

Definition of a Role Model

A role model is someone who inspires and motivates others through their actions and behavior. Role models can be anyone, from family members to public figures, who demonstrate a strength of character, leadership, and integrity.

Characteristics of a Good Role Model

So, what sets good role models apart? Here are some key characteristics to keep in mind:

  • Authenticity: Good role models are authentic and transparent in their behavior, sharing both their triumphs and their struggles.
  • Empathy: They demonstrate empathy and compassion for others, and use their experience to lift others up.
  • Fearlessness: They are not afraid to take calculated risks to achieve their goals, and are always pushing themselves to learn and grow.
  • Ethics: Good role models have a strong sense of ethical and moral responsibility, living by their values and setting a positive example for others.
  • Confidence: They are confident in themselves and their abilities, but never at the expense of others.

Remember, being a role model is not about being perfect. It’s about living by your values and inspiring others to do the same.

Whether you’re a CEO or simply aspire to be a leader in your workplace or community, developing the qualities of a role model can help you inspire others and build a strong sense of purpose and meaning in your life.

Leading by Example vs Role Model

While both leading by example and being a role model may seem similar, some key differences set them apart. Understanding these differences is important for effective leadership development. In this section, I will discuss the differences between leading by example and being a role model, as well as which one is more effective for leadership development.

Key Differences Between Leading by Example and Role Model

Leading by example refers to setting an example for others to follow, by modeling positive behaviors or actions. It is a style of leadership that is grounded in authenticity, transparency, and accountability.

In contrast, being a role model is about inspiring others to aim higher and follow a certain path. It can be done by leading through personal example, but it also involves mentoring, encouragement, and support.

While both leading by example and being a role model are important for effective leadership, they have different focuses.

Which is More Effective for Leadership Development?

Both methods can be effective for leadership development.

However, leading by example tends to be more effective in the short term, as it can directly influence a team’s behaviors and performance. It also fosters trust and respect among team members, as it shows that the leader is willing to lead from the front.

Being a role model, on the other hand, is more effective in the long term as it helps to shape individuals’ personal and professional goals. It allows leaders to inspire their team members to become their best selves, and to strive to achieve their full potential.

Striking a Balance Between Leading by Example and Being a Role Model

The best approach is to strike a balance between leading by example and being a role model. This can be achieved by setting an example of positive behaviors or actions, while also being available to mentor and support team members.

By combining both approaches, leaders can create a cohesive, supportive culture that fosters innovation and success. It’s important, however, to avoid creating unrealistic expectations or setting unattainable standards. Instead, focus on identifying what works for you and your team, and strive to replicate those successes over time.

In short, both leading by example and being a role model are important for effective leadership development. While they have some key differences, both approaches complement each other, and one cannot be more effective than the other.

By understanding the differences and striking a balance between them, leaders can create a culture that fosters innovation, encourages growth, and inspires their team members to become their best selves.

Why Leading by Example so Important

As a leader, you set the tone for your team, and your behavior has a significant impact on organizational culture. When you lead by example, you inspire and motivate others to follow your lead.

Building trust through authenticity

Leading by Example means setting a positive example through your own actions, instead of simply telling people what to do. You must be willing to do what you ask others to do, which demonstrates accountability, commitment, and hard work. It builds a sense of mutual respect, trust, and loyalty that can be difficult to achieve in any other way. Employees respond better to Leaders who lead by example, not by orders.

Fostering a culture of collaboration

One of the benefits of leading by example is that it fosters collaboration and teamwork. When a leader is willing to work alongside their team, it can clarify their roles, which reduces ambiguity and encourages communication. It promotes a team spirit, a willingness to share, and a sense of responsibility for the team’s success. When the team has a strong culture of collaboration, it ensures a more efficient workflow and better decision-making processes.

Driving commitment and accountability

When leaders lead by example, it has a far-reaching impact on employee behavior. When you work hard even when no one is looking - it motivates the whole team. Employees become more committed to their work, and their sense of loyalty grows stronger when leaders are present, visible, and role models. You are less likely to have absenteeism and lazy patterning when the Leader sets the pace for their team. It becomes easier for a team to recognize and appreciate the importance of exhibiting productive behavior.

How to Start Leading by Example

If you’re looking to develop your leadership skills, there’s no better way to do so than by leading by example. Not only will it help build trust and respect among your team members, but it will also encourage them to emulate your behavior and strive for similar levels of excellence. Here are some strategies that can help you develop your leadership skills through leading by example:

Set Clear Expectations

As a leader, it’s important to set clear expectations for your team members. However, it’s equally important to make sure you’re setting the right example. If you want your team members to arrive on time each day and work hard, you need to do the same. By setting the right example, you can show your team members what’s expected of them and how they can achieve success.

Be Consistent

Consistency is key when it comes to leading by example. If you want your team members to take you seriously, you need to be consistent in your behavior and actions. Make sure you’re always following through on your commitments and that you’re treating everyone on your team fairly and with respect.

Practice What You Preach

As a leader, you need to practice what you preach. If you want your team members to respect and trust you, you need to be willing to get your hands dirty and do the work yourself. Don’t ask your team members to do something that you’re not willing to do yourself.

Lead with Transparency

Transparency is important when it comes to leading by example. Be open and honest with your team members about your goals and priorities. Share your successes and failures with them, and be willing to take feedback and make changes when necessary.

Invest in Self-Development

Finally, investing in self-development is a critical component of developing your leadership skills through leading by example. Whether it’s reading books, attending workshops, or working with a coach, taking the time to invest in yourself will help you become a better leader and role model for your team members.

By following these strategies, you can develop your leadership skills by leading by example and becoming the kind of leader that others look up to and admire.

Finding the Right Role Model

Finding the right role model is a crucial step in personal and professional development. A good role model can teach you valuable skills and provide guidance in areas that you’re striving to improve.

But how do you go about finding the right role model?

Here are a few strategies that can help.

Look for Common Goals and Interests

One way to find a good role model is to identify others who share common goals and interests. Finding someone who has similar aspirations can be an excellent way to learn from that person’s successes and failures. For example, if you’re interested in entrepreneurship, you might consider seeking out a mentor who has founded and grown successful companies.

Attend Industry Events and Conferences

Attending industry events and conferences can be a great way to connect with potential role models. These types of events bring together individuals who are passionate about a particular field or industry, making them excellent places to find mentors. At these events, be sure to take the time to introduce yourself, explain your interests, and ask about the experiences of the people you meet.

Ask for Recommendations

If you’re having trouble finding a role model on your own, consider asking others for recommendations. Friends, colleagues, or professionals in your network may be able to provide recommendations or connections that lead to a suitable mentor. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you respect and admire and ask for guidance. Many people are happy to share their knowledge and insights.

Seek Out Online Communities

In today’s digital age, connecting with potential mentors online has never been easier. There are many online communities and social networks devoted to specific industries and fields, making them excellent resources for finding role models. Use social media platforms to reach out to individuals in your industry or field of interest, and don’t be afraid to ask if they would be open to mentoring or offering advice.

Be Open and Flexible

Finally, it’s important to remember that role models can come from unexpected places. Be open and flexible to learning from others you may not have considered before. Someone who is successful in an entirely different industry or has an entirely different background may offer valuable insights and guidance.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to leadership, both leading by example and being a role model are important.

As a leader, one has to find a balance between the two and adopt the right strategies for effective leadership development.

I hope this blog post has given you a better understanding of the differences between these two concepts and how to incorporate them into your leadership style.

Now, let me ask you a very specific question – which strategy from today’s post are you going to try first?

I would love to hear from you, so please send me a message and let me know.

If you found value in this post, please share it on social media so that others can benefit as well.

Together, we can all become better leaders and drive our teams and businesses toward success.

About the Author
Hi there, I'm James, founder of Melbado. I have over 20 years of experience as a leader and entrepreneur. Recently, I turned to leadership coaching and writing to pass on my knowledge to the next generation. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me via our contact page.


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