Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It's the only thing. - Albert Schweitzer

When seeking to influence others, we’d do well to be mindful of the power – as well as the pitfalls – of how we live by example.

The power of example is more critical than we know. 

Example is so critical that when it fails to function adequately, status quo leadership is threatened and even destroyed.

This past weekend, I was astounded by reports of popular uprisings around the world. Whether it was Hong Kong, Lebanon, Spain, Chile, Denmark, France, England, Holland or Ecuador, citizens took to the streets in organized protest. They decried everything from infringement of speech to income inequality, excess taxes and government corruption. However, the common theme appeared to be poor examples among a previously venerated leadership.

In our 21st century world, inward frustration and growing public angst is becoming more than a national feature; it’s rapidly emerging into a glaring global phenomena. 

The late Nobel Prize winner Albert Schweitzer might not be so surprised. He’d likely point to diminishing examples of leadership among institutions, individuals and even media outlets in which we previously placed our trust.

Society can only endure a limited amount of dissonance between presumed leaders and their practical actions. As the gulf between professional positions and personal comportment widens among the leadership class, even ordinary folk grow wary and distrustful. As the chasm grows into outright duplicity and deception, angry hoards become emboldened to challenge the status quo.

Regardless of what position we hold, whether in our families, schools and community organizations or at the helm of monolithic banks and supranational corporations, we’d all do well to heed Schweitzer’s advice. “Example is not the main thing when it comes to influencing others. It is the only thing.”

A Personal Story Podcast

In our age of disclosure, where secrets are finding fewer places to hide, we can all be mindful of the power of living by example and the pitfalls that befall us if we don’t.  We can easily criticize others who fail us, but we can also recognize the importance of living by example ourselves.

I introduce my latest podcast with this theme in mind. As with many of my blogs, posts and podcasts, I employ myself as one of life’s guinea pigs, ambling toward higher expectations for myself and hoping to inspire others toward the same.

For more on choosing to be your own personal example, click here for Podcast 157: Living Without Peace?