• Jeff Doolittle

How to Lead by Example in a Hybrid Work Environment



The reality of a hybrid workforce with geographically dispersed employees is not going away. The modern hybrid workplace includes a combination of time spent in the office and working remotely. The pandemic has touched every part of our lives and has dramatically changed the way people work and the workplace. Even though many of us crave the return of in-person social connections in the office, many of us have become accustomed to the flexibility that comes with a work-from-home environment. Returning to old office routines seems less likely for many organizations. According to a McKinsey & Company global survey across nine countries, it is estimated that based on an analysis of the work, up to 20 percent of an organization's workforce could work remotely three to five days a week. Combined with the allure of shorter commutes and increased time with family, this research points to a workforce looking for something different. A study of 2300 employees across ten industries and from a wide range of seniority levels, roles, and ages in the U.S. found that 52 percent surveyed prefer a hybrid workplace. Leading by example is essential to effective leadership, and a do as I say not as I do approach doesn’t work, but how can a leader effectively lead by example in a hybrid workforce environment? Would you follow you?


Why leading by example is powerful?


Those already in leadership and those currently aspiring to lead can benefit by understanding how to model the way. The behaviors of leaders trigger behaviors in followers. A peer-reviewed study of culturally diverse leaders working across different organizations found that modeling the behaviors leaders want from followers significantly impacts the behaviors of followers. Influential leaders align their actions with their values. Modeling the way is all about going first and setting a daily example of commitment. Leading by example begins with clarifying your values and then letting your values guide your actions. Consider the question, would you follow you? We prefer to follow leaders who listen actively, help us succeed, and demonstrate compassion.


Understanding your values and aligning your behaviors


While leadership behaviors prescribe what a leader should do, a leader's values will influence what a leader will do. Good leadership involves a combination of competence, character, and commitment to challenging work. Values and character are often not discussed within human resource development departments. However, for many years they have been perceived to be foundational to good leadership. Values do not need to be considered subjective and can be measured.

To understand your values better, the VIA Character Strength Survey is a valuable tool for defining a leader's values. The free VIA Character Strength Survey provides insights into your 24-character strengths in rank order. Character strengths are values in action or positive traits for thinking, feeling, and behaving that benefit the leader and others. The VIA has been completed by over 15 million people globally, and all of the scales have satisfactory reliability (> 0.70 alphas).


Combining the understanding of your values with a 360-degree assessment and coaching feedback can improve self-awareness and increase leadership effectiveness. A study of 1,035 middle managers revealed that leaders could avoid derailing by developing self-awareness and leadership competencies. Implementing a leadership 360 assessment process promotes becoming more situationally aware of a leader's behaviors and the perceptions others have about the leader's behavior. 360-degree leadership assessment has been around for over 25 years. While 360-degree feedback effectively improves leadership skills across all cultures, it is most effective in cultures with low power distance and individualistic values such as Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


360-degree assessment refers to an organizational chart view from where the rater feedback originates concerning the leader being assessed. Confidentiality is a foundational aspect of 360-degree leadership feedback. Responses are anonymously collected and grouped by the rater's association with the leader. The feedback collected is aligned to measure the degree of the leader's performance on each behavior and group perception. At the organizational talent level, the 360-degree assessment provides input into the team and o