Friday, June 27, 2008

Leading By Example

Every moment of life we are each changing to a degree the world around us through our personal influence. We are either making the world more or less of a heavenly place.

We have all heard the phrase, “do what I say, not what I do.” This message has no power to influence others. If we do not do what we say, what we say has no power to motivate or impact others positively. In fact, we will have a negative effect. If we tell people to do things that we do not do ourselves, we become hypocrites and lose the confidence and trust of those whom we seek to lead. What we say is a method of influence, but it is only effective when it is aligned with what we do and who we are.

Sermons We See, by Edgar Albert Guest:
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with men than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example is always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.

Emerson wrote, “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.” To be a Divine-Centered Leader, it is not enough to do what you say and practice what you preach. You must be what you teach. For example, let’s consider the principle of service. To operate on the highest level of influence, you can’t just teach about service or tell others they need to do it. You can’t merely go out and do service. You must be a service-oriented person. It must be a part of you. With this paradigm, you view service not as an action you do but as an attribute you possess. Thus, Divine-Centered Leaders do not merely teach about and do service, they are service.

A mistake some people make is that living a good life is sufficient to influence others for good. While it is true that people can learn just by observing what we do, the influence is the greatest when all three methods of influence: teaching, doing, and being, are utilized together.

John C. Maxwell is his book Developing the Leader Within You shares the following story of leading by example. “Benjamin Franklin learned that plaster scattered in the fields would make things grow. He told his neighbors, but they did not believe him. They argued with him, trying to prove that plaster could be of no use at all to grass or grain. After a little while he allowed the matter to drop and said no more about it. Early the next spring Franklin went into the field and sowed some grain. Close to the path, where men would walk, he traced some letters with is finger, put plaster into them, and then sowed seed in the plaster. After a week or two the seed sprang up. As they passed that way, the neighbors were very surprised to see, in brighter green than all the rest of the field, large letters saying, ‘This has been plastered.’ Benjamin Franklin did not need to argue with his friends anymore about the benefits of plaster for the fields.”

Jesus Christ Leads by Example
Jesus perfectly modeled the ability to influence others at the highest level – teaching, doing and being. Jesus taught the way to eternal life, showed it through his life, and actually is the way to eternal life. “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.’ It is not just that the Son of God brought light into a darkened and fallen world; He is the Light. It is not just that our Savior showed us the way; He is the Way. It is not just that Jesus of Nazareth restored the truth and taught the truth; He is the Truth. We have inherited a Greek notion of truth, one which emphasizes truth as something to be learned, a matter of the head. In fact, the Hebrew notion of truth was something we do and, more precisely, something we are, a matter of the heart.” (From address March 16, 1992 entitled “The Challenge of Christ-Centered Leadership” by Robert Millet)

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