Balancing Between Firm and Soft Leadership Style: The Do’s and Don’ts

People thrive when they are led by a good example. When they can trust their leaders, they follow them without being forced, and they can see themselves being independent in time. Their leaders, on the other hand, ensure that their followers would spread their wings one day. More importantly, they don’t see their people as someone beneath them but as their equals.

In the corporate world, leadership can be tricky. For one thing, managers technically outrank their staff, but hierarchical organizations have disadvantages. Though it establishes a clear chain of command, it tends to deprive those in the lowest ranks of voice, while those at the top are the law.

Hence, a new style of business leadership is being encouraged today: leading by example. Instead of being an authoritative boss, managers, CEOs, and directors are now urged to act as true leaders.

Over the years, we’ve learned the differences between a boss and a leader. A boss seeks control, while a leader inspires. A boss gains respect through seniority; a leader earns respect due to the quality of their character.

When you lead by example, you demonstrate the qualities you want to be observed in your organization. You also instill the characteristics you want your team to adopt for when they become their own boss. But sometimes, leading by example can lead to adverse outcomes. To avoid them, note these dos and don’ts of leading by example:

Do: Respect the Chain of Command

Leading by example doesn’t mean disregarding the chain of command. Doing so would cause structural deterioration and confusion, leading to reduced morale. If the staff wants to present an idea or raise a concern to the management, ensure that their immediate supervisors are informed first. Alternatively, if you want to address a staff member, talk to their immediate supervisors first.

While employees appreciate a more casual and approachable leader, it’s not a reason to bypass department heads when you need to speak to a particular employee. If you want your organization to go through the proper channels before speaking to you, extend the same courtesy. Leadership isn’t a free pass to unethical practices.

Don’t: Behave Without Authority

Exercising authority doesn’t make you bossy. When you behave like you don’t have authority, your leadership style softens too much. It could make you prone to abuse by your employees.

Many leaders assume responsibility, but not authority. You have to find the right balance between the two. As a business leader, you’re responsible for your organization’s actions, so you must be an authoritative figure that would direct their actions. If your people don’t know who to follow, they’ll do things their own way, throwing order out the window.

A leader shows how work is done. So be the model of good work ethic and productivity in your company. It would show your authority without making anyone feel small.

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Do: Be Socially Responsible

If you want your company to make a positive impact on society, engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR). CSR is becoming increasingly important for investors, stakeholders, and consumers. A company without CSR can be boycotted by consumers or perform poorly in sales. People are more likely to spend extra money on products or services if the business is socially responsible.

There are different ways to engage in CSR. You can support a cause and regularly donate to it, for example. A CSR platform will help you find a cause to support. Your employees can also have an active role in supporting the cause because the platform allows them to choose their own causes.

Being a socially responsible leader will influence your organization to become a positive force in their own communities. If you advocate for sustainability, your organization may also make sustainable personal choices. In turn, their peers can adopt the same behavior, creating a butterfly effect of sustainable practices.

Don’t: Evade Taking a Position on Certain Issues

A good leader minimizes disputes in their organizations, but it doesn’t mean they ignore them. It’s normal for organizations to have disagreements, no matter how happy and content they are. After all, they’re still individuals with different upbringings. Naturally, not all of them will have the same values and beliefs.

Acknowledge this fact when you start growing your team. Expect conflict to arise, and when it does, don’t shrug it off. Leading by example shouldn’t make you neutral all the time. You have to take a stand if the conflict is costing your organization’s morale and productivity. If you turn a blind eye to conflict, then you’re not leading at all.

Being an exemplary leader might be easier said than done, but it would be harder to be a boss that employees dislike. It’s alright to make leadership mistakes, as long as you own up to them. That’s another excellent way to lead by example and inspire your organization.

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