21 Traits for Leading by Example: Rate Yourself

 In Business Success, Leadership, Leadership Development, leading by example, Personal development, Servant leadership

Early in my career at a seminar the facilitators talked about “leading by example.”  I asked myself, “What do they really mean by that?”  Later at a couple of other courses it was mentioned. Yet, none of the trainers or facilitators ever specifically said, “Here’s what it means in detail…”  So, I made it a quest to learn and define it.

Over time, I noticed that managers often had a glazed look in their eyes when I would say to “lead by example.” The phrase had become a platitude, like “communicate better.”  I added discussions in leadership meetings and coaching sessions, to hear from others and find out what they thought it meant. Eventually I made a list of traits I had learned from those experiences. Below are those traits. Why not use this list to check yourself and/or your current boss?

21 Traits for Leading by Example: Rate YourselfLeading by Example Assessment

If you are a manager or an aspiring one, how do you know if you are leading by example? Here are 21 specific traits to benchmark yourself. Use a scale of 1-6. Mark a 1 if it is very infrequently like you, 6 means it is very frequently like you. Answer as you think others would see you, not how you would want to be.


  1. _____lead with integrity.
  2. _____conduct your life/business honestly.
  3. _____share a compelling vision for your team.
  4. _____follow-up on your commitments.
  5. _____live in such a way that your behavior and values match.
  6. _____do what you ask your team to do by demonstrating and coaching.
  7. _____treat all people respectfully.
  8. _____do not need to drop names, situations, or events in conversations to impress people.
  9. _____strive to do the right thing, not the expedient thing.
  10. _____stay honorable to your values and what is right, even when under pressure or temptation.
  11. _____admit mistakes and apologize.
  12. _____include humor in your work but not poor taste in humor.
  13. _____are quick to praise and give recognition to others.
  14. _____do your best on any given day and encourage others to do so as well.
  15. _____deal with everyone fairly and stay away from favoritism.
  16. _____show true enthusiasm for your work and goals.
  17. _____communicate positively with people at any level.
  18. _____offer constructive criticism–no biting negativism!
  19. _____are a good listener, even if another’s views are different from       your own.
  20. _____know that you do not know it all, so you keep learning, and you provide regular opportunities for your team to do so as well.
  21. _____understand that what you do is more powerful than what you say, so you walk the talk and practice what you preach.

Assessment Review

Identify your top 4-5 leading by example strengths. Also, pick two areas for improvement where you rated yourself lower. Ask yourself, “What did I learn or re-learn from this brief assessment?” 

21 Traits for Leading by Example: Rate YourselfNelson Mandela: Leading by Example

Nelson Mandela had a huge problem as President of South Africa. How could he help his country heal from apartheid and achieve reconciliation? He did it by leading by example. He stated, “Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.” He also encouraged black South Africans to get behind their hated national rugby team, the Springboks. Leading by example, Mandela championed the team during the 1995 Rugby World Cup hosted by South Africa. He developed a supportive relationship with Francois Pienaar, an Afrikaner and team captain.

As a result, the team rose to the occasion and beat New Zealand to win the championship. While presenting the trophy to Pienaar, Mandela wore a Springbok’s jersey with Pienaar’s #6 on the back. This act was a huge step forward, and Mandela-leading by example as servant-won the hearts of millions of white South African rugby fans.

Pulling It All Together

I have discovered that managers who do not lead by example as described above, generally do not build strong, high performing teams. They tend to have higher employee turnover, lower customer service, unsustainable positive results, and less employee engagement. While your leadership experiences may or may not be on a national scope like Mandela, how you lead will determine your success. Without genuinely modeling the way, managers are doomed to mediocrity or failure.  Albert Schweitzer said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.”

21 Traits for Leading by Example: Rate YourselfAlso, are you committed to your team’s success? If so, see this complimentary Coaching for Results eBook.

In addition, go here for our RealTime Learning & Training leadership and personal development website. Over 130 micro-learning and career development resources at your fingertips!

Finally, do you want to accelerate your success by leading by example? Go here for Rick’s Superstar Leadership eBook.


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