Model The Way

Employee Engagement in Singapore is still at a low compared to other countries in Asia.

While countries such as Indonesia (+15%), the Philippines (+6%) and Malaysia (+4%) experienced great leaps in employee engagement in the year of 2018, engagement in Singapore hasn’t increased at all! (Aon Hewitt, 2018). 

There are five exemplary leadership practices that are proven to raise the engagement of employees in the workplace. One of them is ‘Model the Way’. Let’s explore how leaders can increase engagement by modelling the way. 

Leaders’ Behaviours Speak Volumes

Most people have some amount of respect for their leaders to begin with, but not without keeping a close eye on them.

Employees are good observers of their leaders’ behaviours. They notice and remember a great deal of you, much more than you can imagine. So when you’re late for meetings, forget to thank your colleague for his support and never ‘get your hands dirty’ like your employees do, you’re setting these behaviours as examples for them to follow. 

If you want your employees to behave in certain ways, the most effective way is to role model the expected behaviours.

It can be hard to set a good example all the time. Sometimes, you’re not even aware of what you’re doing or not doing. The lack of clarity in how you should behave and yet expecting others to behave in a certain way leads to your inconsistency in behaviours and sends out potentially conflicting messages. Like expecting team members to collaborate, but simultaneously promoting turf guarding against other departments in the organisation. 

To engage employees and keep them inspired through modelling the way, you must lead from the essence of who you are, that is, having a clear set of values that guides your leadership philosophy. 

Finding Your Voice by Clarifying Personal Values

Being clear about the values you internalise serves as a foundation for the behaviours you show. You  need to seek out which core values drive your beliefs, making sure that you act in ways that reflect these values. You shouldn’t have to think about whether you value A over B for everything you do. Your core values are meant to serve as a guide for your every behaviour. 

If ‘trust’ is one of your core values, then your leadership behaviour should be aligned to it: You  trust your employee to get his work done, no matter whether he does it at his work desk, at a coffee table or late at night. Being consciously aware of your value of trust, you won’t be nagging at your employee when he picks up his child in the afternoon and finishes his tasks in the evening.

Being consistent in the messages you send will increase your credibility and help build trust in the relationships with your employees.

Aligning Actions With Shared Values 

Having clarity about your personal values lays the principles for your leadership behaviours. Apart from finding your personal values, you also need to agree on values that you share with your team. Having a set of common principles and ideas that lead the actions of every team member is just as important as having your own.

In the case of your organisation already having a set of values, you align your personal values with  your shared values. 

Having exposure to a lot of organisations through the work we do at PACE, we’ve gained insight into numerous organisational core values. Whether they’re actually lived out or not, these values are almost always of the type that most people would agree with. Organisations that value ignorance or suffering are yet to be found! Therefore, aligning behaviours with the organisation’s core values is rarely a difficult task for leaders. Actually following through with these is the harder part.

Sometimes of course, personal values aren't easily aligned with the organisation’s values. When there’s tension between the two sets of values, but you really want to work for the organisation, you must find a way to embrace the organisation’s values. However, when there’s real conflict between your own values and those of the organisation, aligning them may cause problems. You can either leave the organisation to find one with which our values can be better aligned, or stay and most likely not be able to perform to your personal best. 

Once you’ve aligned your values with those of the organisation, you’ve established a good foundation for your daily leadership behaviours. Your values should be reflected in everything you do. This means, when you value unity, you could schedule regular team events and get togethers. When valuing integrity, you should be courageous enough to be honest about having made a mistake. 

Through this, you’re making sure to role model those kind of behaviours that you value and want to see in others, too. You’ll gain respect and build your credibility, for your consistent behaviours allow people to trust you. When your employees trust you, they go the extra mile instead of just doing what you tell them to do. And as the research of James Kouzes and Barry Posner shows, modelling the way, you actively contribute to increasing the engagement of your employees.


Modelling the Way is part of The Leadership Challenge® workshop, recognised worldwide as one of the most practical model of leadership development.

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