“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.” ~ Albert Einstein
Around the time I started school, I learned a very simple schoolyard game called “Follow the Leader.” You may have played it too. The object of the game was to walk around behind the leader and just repeat everything they did. The leader’s goal was to try and do things the followers couldn’t do. Like most schoolyard games, it always ended in one of two ways…by the sound of the bell or with an argument.
Today, as the actual leader of a team, I have discovered that people really are following me and watching everything I do. This is no game. The stakes are high and the proverbial “bell” doesn’t ring until I’m disqualified or die. The goal of this game is much different too. Instead of trying to do things my follows can’t do, my responsibility as their leader is to set an example they want to follow. The weight of this responsibility to consistently and positively affect the lives of others can certainly feel heavy at times.
People are looking to us as leaders to set the pace, chart the course and show them the way. This is the high calling of leadership. Here is a key principle to help you keep this responsibility in its proper perspective:
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9 NLT)
Did you catch the key principle in this passage? Paul is instructing his followers to follow his example but to also take responsibility for themselves by examining everything according to “what is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and worthy of praise.” The principle being taught here is one all leaders should teach to those who follow them.
Leaders must always commit to do our best to set a good example. However, everyone is personally responsible for examining all they do according to God’s standards. If we practice and teach this simple truth, leaders and followers alike will grow in their walk with the Lord. I love Paul’s assurance that if we do these things, “then God of peace will be with you.”
The weight of leadership is never unbearable when we seek wisdom and perspective from God’s word. Always remember, people are watching you. You are already an example to others because you are a leader. What kind of example will you be?
Be intentional and genuine in the example you set. Don’t just go through the motions. Let your example be the natural outflowing of who you really are. If your example needs to change, you must change first.