Pros and Cons of Leading by Example

As a seasoned leader and entrepreneur with over two decades of experience, I believe that leading by example is one of the most important aspects of effective leadership.

That’s why I’m excited to write this blog post, where I’ll cover the pros and cons of leading by example, along with techniques to balance delegating responsibilities.

In this article, you’ll learn some of the most effective ways to lead by example while building a positive work environment.

Whether you’re a CEO, manager, or entrepreneur, this blog post has tips and insights that can help you become a more effective leader.

Let’s dive right in.

Pros of Leading by Example

As a leader, leading by example can have numerous advantages. Here are some of the most prominent ones:

Improved Employee Morale

When leaders demonstrate the behavior that they want from their employees, it helps build trust and respect between the leader and the employees. Employees are more likely to be motivated and happy when they have a strong, dedicated leader who is setting a positive example for them.

Encourages Teamwork

When a leader is actively engaged in the work that the team is doing, it can help foster a sense of teamwork among the employees. They are more likely to work together effectively when they see that their boss is working alongside them and setting a positive example.

Builds Trust and Credibility with Employees

When a leader demonstrates high standards of honesty, integrity, and ethical conduct, it helps build a strong foundation of trust between the leader and the employees. Employees are more likely to follow a leader they respect and believe in, and they are less likely to engage in unethical behavior themselves.

Demonstrates Expectations to Employees

When leaders lead by example, they are telling employees what they expect from them. This can be a powerful message and one that can help guide employee behavior and performance.

Provides Opportunities to Coach and Mentor

When a leader is mentoring and coaching employees, it can be very helpful to be working alongside them. This can provide an opportunity for the leader to demonstrate best practices, offer feedback, and provide support when needed.

Cons of Leading by Example

As beneficial as leading by example can be in inspiring employees, it has its downsides. Here are some of the cons to consider.

Can Lead to Overworking and Burnout

When leaders consistently demonstrate an attitude of productivity, it may create the impression that employees should be doing the same. As a result, employees may feel pressured to overwork themselves, leading to burnout. It’s important for leaders to model a healthy work-life balance and set realistic expectations for employees.

Can Create Unrealistic Expectations for Employees

While leading by example is a great way to display work expectations, you should be careful of creating unrealistic ones. For instance, if you have an employee who is trying to keep up with your pace, they may end up doing a shoddy job, which is not helpful to anyone.

Can Lead to Micromanagement

Constantly leading by example might have a downside of micromanaging. If employees are used to you setting the pace and following you, they may start to become overly reliant on you. This can be limiting and can stifle creativity, as they will not have a chance to think independently.

Can Limit Employee Input and Creativity

If you’re always leading by example, you risk becoming a control freak. Control freaks don’t often do well in leadership positions because they don’t trust their employees enough to delegate. By doing so, you could be hindering their progress and missing out on creative ideas.

Inappropriate Modeling of Behaviors

Finally, it’s essential to make sure you’re leading by positive examples. If, for example, you’re leading by example of unfavorable behaviors, it can be unfortunate, leading to demotivation and unproductive employees.

As you lead by example, it’s essential to set a good example for your employees’ productivity rather than micromanage them.

Balancing Leading by Example and Delegation

As a leader, you are constantly tasked with achieving a delicate balance between leading by example and delegating responsibilities to your employees. Both aspects of leadership are critical for achieving success in your organization, and finding the right balance is essential. In this section, I’ll discuss the importance of each approach and share techniques for balancing them effectively.

Importance of Delegating Responsibilities as a Leader

As a leader, one of your main responsibilities is to establish and delegate tasks to team members. Delegation allows you to focus on the big picture and higher-level tasks, while empowering your employees to take on additional responsibilities and develop new skills. Delegating responsibilities can also help alleviate stress, enabling leaders to achieve a better work-life balance.

Opportunities for Developing Employees with Delegation

Delegation creates new opportunities for employee development and advancement. When you delegate tasks, you give employees the chance to acquire knowledge and skills relevant to their positions, as well as develop new competencies. By empowering your employees, you’re also helping to build a more capable and confident team, which can help with future business growth.

Understanding Your Limits as a Leader

While delegation is important, it’s important to understand your limits as a leader. Delegating too much or too little can have negative consequences on your productivity and team morale. It’s essential to delegate tasks that you don’t have time for and ones that will benefit from the strengths of others on the team. However, some tasks should be kept under your control, especially those that align with your core competencies and those tasks that only you as a leader can handle.

Techniques for Demonstrating Leadership by Example

Leaders who choose to lead by example must possess several key techniques to be successful. Here are some of the most effective techniques that leaders can use to show the way:

Set Clear Expectations

When you lead by example, you need to make sure that you set clear expectations for your team. This includes establishing specific goals and providing guidelines for how to achieve them. You can lead by example by demonstrating what you expect from your team, and then ensuring that those standards are met.

Provide Hands-On Training

Providing hands-on training is another important technique that leaders can use to show the way. When you work alongside your team, you can demonstrate how to perform specific tasks and provide feedback on their performance. With hands-on training, you can show your employees the right way to do things and help them develop the skills they need to succeed.

Demonstrate Positive Attitudes and Behaviors

As a leader, you set the tone for your team. Demonstrating positive attitudes and behaviors can be infectious, and can motivate your team to do their best work. When you lead by example, you can inspire your team to always put their best foot forward and push themselves to new levels of achievement.

Actively Work to Improve Weaknesses

To effectively lead by example, it’s important to acknowledge your own weaknesses and work to improve them. When you take steps to address your weaknesses, you demonstrate to your team the importance of continuously improving and growing. This will motivate your employees to do the same.

By using these techniques, leaders can set the stage for success and achieve great things with their teams.

Building Strong Relationships with Your Employees

Building strong relationships with your employees is an essential part of being a successful leader. There are several ways to achieve this, including actively listening to their concerns and suggestions, providing opportunities for growth and development, and encouraging feedback.

Actively Listening to Employee Concerns and Suggestions

One of the most critical aspects of building good relationships with your employees is actively listening to their concerns and suggestions. By doing this, you demonstrate that their input is valued and respected. This can create a sense of trust and respect between you and your employees. You can create an atmosphere that encourages open communication by holding regular team meetings, and one-on-one meetings, and providing a space where employees can feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and opinions.

Creating Opportunities for Employee Growth and Development

Employees want to know that they have opportunities to learn and grow within their current workplace. As a leader, it’s essential to provide employees with the tools and resources they need to succeed. This can come in the form of training and development programs, mentorship opportunities, and personalized career-planning sessions. By investing in the growth and development of your employees, you create a more engaged and motivated workforce.

Encouraging Employee Feedback

Feedback is critical for growth and development. As a leader, it’s essential to provide regular feedback to your employees, but it’s equally as important to encourage them to provide feedback to you. This can come in the form of regular surveys, suggestion boxes, or open-door policies. By actively seeking input from your employees, you can gain valuable insights into your team, your management style, and the overall work environment.

Building strong relationships with your employees can take time, but it’s an investment that pays off in the long run. By actively listening to employee concerns and suggestions, creating opportunities for growth and development, and encouraging feedback, you can create a work environment that fosters trust, respect, and productivity.

Overcoming Barriers to Leading by Example

As a leader, it can be challenging to lead by example when you’re dealing with certain barriers. In this section, I will share with you some common barriers to leading by example and how you can overcome them.


Perfectionism is the idea that you need to be perfect and do everything to the highest standard. This can often lead to burnout and create unrealistic expectations for employees. To overcome perfectionism, it’s important to set realistic goals for yourself and your team. This will help you focus on what’s important and avoid getting caught up in the small details.

Resistance to Change

Change can be difficult for many people, including leaders. However, as a leader, it’s important to embrace change and demonstrate a willingness to adapt. To overcome resistance to change, start by acknowledging why you or your team may be resistant to change. Once you understand the reasons, you can work on creating a plan to address those concerns and communicate the plan to your team.

Lack of Trust in Employees

Leading by example requires a great deal of trust in your team. If you don’t trust your employees, it can be difficult to delegate and empower them to take on more responsibility. To overcome this barrier, it’s important to start by building relationships with your employees. Actively listen to their concerns and suggestions, and create opportunities for them to grow and develop. This will help you build trust and empower your team to take on more responsibility.

By overcoming these common barriers to leading by example, you can become a more effective leader and inspire your team to achieve their goals. Remember, leading by example is not about being perfect, but rather, demonstrating the right behaviors and attitudes that will help your team succeed.

Recognizing the Benefits of Leading by Example

As a leader, you may wonder whether leading by example is worth your time and effort. It can be challenging to balance delegation and leading from the front. However, recognizing the successes that come from leading by example can help you maintain your motivation and confidence in your leadership style.

Improved Employee Retention Rates

When you lead by example, you show your employees what you expect from them. Employees who understand their roles and feel empowered to make decisions in line with the organizational objectives tend to stay longer with the company. This results in lower employee turnover rates, which contribute to team stability, productivity, and satisfaction.

Increased Productivity

When leaders lead by example, they help employees to improve their performance. Leading by example provides the opportunity for employees to learn new skills, and best practices and challenge themselves to find better ways of performing their work. When employees feel comfortable asking questions and receiving feedback, productivity naturally follows, with employees solving problems more quickly and making fewer mistakes.

Improved Work Environment

Employees who are led by example tend to have a positive work environment that fosters innovation, trust and growth. When the leader consistently demonstrates positive attitudes, employees learn to model the same behavior among one another, resulting in a culture of trust, respect and accountability. Moreover, as employees become more productive, happier, and comfortable within their roles, the entire work environment is uplifted.

As you can see, leading by example provides many benefits, from helping employees learn new skills to generating a positive work culture. These benefits cannot only improve employee morale and the overall work environment, but they can lead to a more productive and engaged team.

Leaders Who Lead by Example

Here are some of the most successful leaders who embody the concept of leading by example in their own unique way.

Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, is famous for his bold decisions and active involvement in his businesses. Branson believes in leading by example, and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty to prove it. From his daring hot air balloon expeditions to his public relations stunts, Branson shows that he is willing to do what it takes to achieve his goals. This bold and adventurous spirit has helped him build strong relationships with his employees and has earned him a reputation as a true leader in his field.

Mary Barra

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, is known for her hands-on approach to leadership. Barra believes in leading by example by taking an active role in the day-to-day operations of the company. This includes working on the assembly line to better understand the production process and engaging with employees at all levels. By leading by example and demonstrating her commitment to the company and its employees, Barra has gained the trust and respect of her team and has helped transform the culture at General Motors.

Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos, is well-known for his emphasis on company culture and customer service. Hsieh believes in leading by example by embodying the values and principles that he expects from his employees. This includes working in the call center to better understand customer needs and encouraging his team to focus on creating a positive customer experience. By leading by example and prioritizing employee and customer satisfaction, Hsieh built a billion-dollar company that is revered for its unique and innovative approach to business.

As a leader, it’s important to find your own style and approach to leading by example. By studying successful leaders like Sir Richard Branson, Mary Barra, and Tony Hsieh, you can gain valuable insights and inspiration to help guide your own leadership journey. Remember, leading by example isn’t just about setting a good example for others - it’s about demonstrating your commitment and dedication to the company and its employees and inspiring others to do the same.

Final Thoughts

Leading by example is an effective leadership strategy that has both advantages and disadvantages.

While it can increase productivity, improve employee morale, and build trust with employees, it can also lead to micromanagement and burnout.

However, with a balanced approach that includes delegation, hands-on training, and actively demonstrating positive attitudes and behaviors, leaders can mitigate the risks while reaping the benefits of leading by example.

So, which technique for leading by example are you going to try first?

Let me know by sending me a message!

I am curious to hear about your experiences and see how you implement these strategies in your own leadership practice.

If you found value in this post, please share it on social media and with your colleagues so that they too can benefit from these insights!

Remember, by leading by example, you have the power to inspire positive change and promote growth in your organization.

Keep leading and growing!

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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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