The most effective way to lead others is by example. Thomas J. Watson, the former chairman and CEO of IBM, once said, “Nothing so conclusively proves a man’s ability to lead others, as what he does from day to day to lead himself.” My parents are the greatest leaders I know. They have guided me to become the successful high school student-athlete that I am today. However, they have not done so by commanding me and controlling my actions. They offer suggestions here and there like every other parent, but their demands are at a minimum. Every day, I wake up and my mom has already left to start her 12-hour workday. Every day, my dad comes home covered in dirt, sawdust, and paint with splinters in his hands. If they can do this, I can surely finish my homework and study a little extra for that big test tomorrow. Would I do my homework if they sat on the couch watching television all day? Probably not.
What you do speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have experienced firsthand the positive effects of leading by example throughout my whole life, which has helped me develop into the effective leader that I am today. As a leader, I have learned that you cannot control people’s actions; you can only hope to influence them, whether that is through the way you conduct yourself or through your suggestions and advice. Orders and demands, more often than not, lead to negative outcomes. People don’t like being told what to do or that they are doing something incorrectly. It is almost a guarantee to see the loss of enthusiasm and focus among a group if the leader of that group employs a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. Steve Schultz, a teacher at my high school, once said, “If you don’t follow the words you say, then the words you say won’t be followed.”
You can’t change people. You can only offer guidance.
My English teacher always said, “Show, don’t tell.” Granted, he was talking about writing an argumentative essay, not leadership, but the principle is still very much the same. You must show the way by doing it yourself. Setting the example may be a difficult thing to do because it requires confidence and initiative, but that is what good leaders excel at. If you hope to have a positive impact on someone’s life, you must first look at your own life. You have to be able to motivate and inspire yourself before you can motivate and inspire others. I love helping people, but, because self-motivation plays such a huge role in success, you can only help them if they want to help themselves. Knowing how to lead yourself to success gives you a substantial advantage in knowing how to lead others to success as well. Be more of what you want to see more of.