Lead the Way – How to be a Better Role Model at Work

Good leaders know that their employees, colleagues, and customers observe what they do and say every day. Great leaders take that opportunity to embrace and display their core values to influence and inspire those around them. Researchers studying mirror neurons in the human brain have determined that people are wired to learn through observation, and to some extent, imitate what they see. As researchers told the New York Times, “If a company wants its employees to quickly assimilate ‘best practices,’ there is no faster conduit to a protégé’s brain than watching a good role model in action.” It is most powerful for people to see their leaders in action. Being a great role model cannot be done from behind a desk; we must truly lead the way. 


5 Tips to be a Better Role Model

  • Know your “Why.” Be very clear on your personal values and how they align with the values of your organization. Why do you do what you do? Can you articulate that to your team clearly? Remember, your decisions, actions, and messages should reflect your values. People don’t trust leaders who don’t walk the talk. 
  • Earn Trust and Respect. Trust and respect are not given or taken. They are earned. Show your team that you act with integrity. Strive to be as consistent, honest, and fair as possible. Don’t engage in gossip, and don’t tolerate it in others. Follow every rule you expect your staff to follow, and make it clear that rules apply to everyone regardless of their title. 
  • Roll-up Your Sleeves. Don’t ask your team to do anything you aren’t willing to do. Work hard and pitch in to help when needed. This shows employees that “it’s not my job” is never an acceptable answer. Encourage teamwork by demonstrating it whenever possible. 
  • Practice Self-Care. Self-management is vital to successful leadership. Practice good habits like eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly. Manage your stress and encourage your team to do the same. Consider organizing a stress-busting afternoon walk outside with your team or signing up for a group meditation class. Good habits are contagious, and managing stress will reduce burnout, improve performance, and help make a happier, more productive team. 
  • Embrace a Growth Mindset. When mistakes are made, make sure a lesson is learned. Don’t be afraid of failure; embrace it as part of the road to success. Encourage life-long learning on your team by pursuing it yourself. Sign up for a workshop, take a webinar, or enroll in a professional development course. Show your team that you value continued learning and help them find learning opportunities you think might be a great fit for them.