The Power of Leading by Example: How You Can Improve Performance Levels at Work.

September 10, 2018 / Ariana Biedebach

We have all heard the phrase, “Lead by example”, but how many of us have truly taken this on?  It is easy to start out with this intention, but more often than not, a breakdown occurs because we are only human.  While this may be true, research in the area of leadership continues to show us how important this notion really is. Gutermann, Lehmann‐Willenbrock, Boer, Born, & Voelpel (2017) studied how leaders’ work-engagement spread to their subordinates.  They hypothesized that the role of the superior, in setting a “highly engaged” example, would elicit higher levels of engagement in their subordinates compared to those leaders who were lower in engagement. The results supported their hypothesis. Leaders work engagement had a positive effect on their employees’ work engagement.

What This Means for Managers:

High levels of employee engagement has been continuously linked to increased levels of performance and lower turnover. This study provides a connection between research in employee engagement and leadership style. Managers who are trying to boost the performance of their teams should first look inward at their own work practices.  Ask yourself, “Am I highly engaged at work?”. This first question provides a foundation for change. Further, managers who are looking to inspire change in and beyond their teams could use this study as an example for future directions. Continuously advocating for high levels of work engagement at the managerial level is the starting point to eliciting organizational culture change towards high engagement and top performance. Remembering the power leading by example has will help managers keep in mind how important they are to their teams.

Thank you for reading!

Ariana Biedebach


Gutermann, D., Lehmann‐Willenbrock, N., Boer, D., Born, M., & Voelpel, S. C. (2017). How leaders affect followers’ work engagement and performance: Integrating leader−member exchange and crossover theory. British Journal of Management, 28(2), 299-314. doi: