There’s only one person you need to influence and lead. Yourself! We follow you because of who you are, not because of what you tell us to do.
This is the reason why people are so disturbed when there is a religious person who’s caught doing an act of impropriety.
One sure way to lose the respect of other people, the trust of other people, is when we act disingenuous, when we are dishonest, when we say one thing but we do something else. And this is ‑‑ we find this to be so offensive because it creates what social scientists refer to as cognitive dissonance, where we hear one thing, we see something else. We see one thing, we experience something else. It’s sort of like when someone comes over to you and says, hi, how are you, with a big smile on their face but as they turn away from you, you can just see how that smile goes right off their face. And suddenly you realize that you heard this tremendously friendly smile but it wasn’t real, it wasn’t authentic. And that hello not only does not achieve a closeness between the two people, it creates further distance because it was disingenuous. That’s how damaging such behavior is when we are not being authentic, when our outside and our inside are not aligned, when we are not true to what it is that we are saying or that we are preaching.
Disingenuous behavior creates confusion for another person because they’re hearing one thing, they’re experiencing something else. And we find it very offensive. This is the reason why people are so disturbed when there is a religious person who is caught doing an act of impropriety. Why is it so disturbing? They’re another human being who has done something they shouldn’t have done, there are people doing this all the time. The reason why is because on their outside, if you look at them, the way they’re dressed, the way they appear, the way they show themselves to others, it seems that they hold themselves to one standard; when it comes to actual action, clearly they don’t. And that creates cognitive dissonance, which is very offensive and creates a very harsh reaction.
Leadership and influence, which is really what leadership is, it’s all about influence, is the exact same way. When we are not authentic, when we are not consistent, when we are not true to the influence we want to have on other people, to what it is that we preach to other people, then we don’t have influence. Because people are looking at us and listening ‑‑ they’re hearing one thing and they’re seeing something else. Not only does it not create influence, it actually creates the exact opposite of influence, people get turned away and turned off by that. And of course, we all know that it’s much more fun to tell others what to do. But, hopefully, we also know that it’s far more effective when we tell ourselves what to do. And that’s the reason why we should never try leading others before leading ourselves. Because there is only one person that we need to lead and that is ourselves. In fact, what I have found, and I would trust you have also found is that the way we influence other people most powerfully is when we are an example of that. Not even by telling the other person but by simply being that example.
Little needs to be told to other people. A whole lot needs to be shown to other people. And the irony of this is that sometimes we see other people who we feel are dishonest or disingenuous and we want to tell them how what they’re doing is so ugly. And you know what we need to do? We don’t need to tell them. We need to demonstrate to them in our own actions what we would like to see from them as well.
That is the way we lead other people when we lead ourselves. If you think about the people who are most inspiring in your life, I would suspect that those people are beautiful examples to you in the way they lead their own life. You see, they lead themselves and that’s why you are willing to follow them.
When you want to tell another person how they should be doing something, ask yourself a simple question, how authentic are you when it comes to that behavior? Where in regards to that behavior do you falter? Does this person ever see me behaving in the same way that they just behaved? And if the answer is yes, and you want to tell them, don’t tell them anything, just become a more perfect example of what it is that you would expect to see from them.
And we can take this to an even further extreme. Imagine someone is ‑‑ who is trying to lead you in the classic way of telling you what to do and telling you how you should be doing something differently. And you know what they’re saying is correct, you listen to them and even though there’s cognitive dissonance, you know they’re not true to what they’re saying themselves but you can still hear what they’re telling you, you can separate the message from the messenger and you can hear the message and say, yes, I should really be doing it that way. And you know that they themselves are not at all authentic to this. Of course, that’s bad leadership on their part and of course, many people will get caught up in the messenger and not be able to hear the message and they will have that cognitive dissonance of confusion and they will not be able to hear the message. But you, you can practice and I can practice separating the message from the messenger. Chances are they will not have a lot of influence with most people, but if what they’re saying is true, then we should do our best to follow that suggestion of theirs. Because if you and I are authentic, if we want to be able to lead others in a better way, then what we want to do is lead ourselves by being able to hear the truth of a matter and following through even though the messenger creates confusion because they’re not authentic to it. And what we end up doing is we end up demonstrating leadership, because we are demonstrating that we will lead ourselves even though it’s infuriating to get the message from someone who is not authentic to it. That’s how committed we are to leading ourselves. And when we are so committed to leading ourselves, we actually begin being a profound leader for others.
So stop trying to lead others, simply lead yourself. You will be an inspiration to the people in your life.