“A wise man ought always to follow the paths beaten by great men, and to imitate those who have been supreme, so that if his ability does not equal theirs, at least it will savour of it.” -Machiavelli, The Prince
If you consider yourself a leader, whether in business or as a public figure, you have to constantly engage in personal growth and change in order to be effective in overcoming obstacles and inspiring others to improve. You have be moving constantly in some direction to be successful at accomplishing the goals that you have set. I’ve often heard it put this way: “You can never stand still in life, you are either gaining ground or losing it.” So I ask you this question, who has been ahead of you on the path you are currently taking? Better yet, who is it that you allow to influence you?
When we were kids this type of question was very easy to answer. In that stage of life we only saw in the generalities of right and wrong, good and evil, positive and negative; and so it was easy to choose something that we saw as a positive and say that’s what we wanted to be. Someone would ask, “T.J., what do you want to be when you grow up?”, and I would reply “A Power Ranger!”, “A policeman!”, or “The President!”, because I saw all of those things as honorable and good. The people in those positions were supposed to be the epitome of virtue. As we grow older and are exposed to inconsistencies and failings of people we once considered heroes, we begin to realize that it’s easier to try to be cool and influential than it is to be good and to make a positive impact in the lives of those around us. The sad fact is that in today’s culture the path of least resistance to fame and popularity is to do something shocking or, dare I say it, immoral. To be both good AND influential is extremely difficult and because of this we are seeing fewer people to look up to that fall into that category.
“But T.J, your blog is about success and leadership, shouldn’t you be telling me to do whatever is necessary to get people to like me? Isn’t getting people to like you what leadership is all about?” I would respond to that with asking you to listen to the interview Pat Flynn recently did with Michael Port here. The entire interview is fantastic, but Mike starts talking about results vs. approval and gives an incredible explanation at about the 10:45 mark. True leaders do not lead a group of lemmings off of a cliff for the sake of leading them somewhere. True leaders take their people to a place of prosperity and do it in a way that their followers have peace of mind knowing that they did it in a way that is honorable.
I hope to always walk the path of other individuals who did things the right way. I don’t want to follow people who led for power or wealth, but who blazed a trail because they wanted to see the right thing done. So, what about you? I suppose it would be best to go back to my original question. Who do you follow? It’s important to know because they influence the way that you lead. Do you learn from those that are virtuous or just popular? Merciful or ruthless? Good or bad? I ask because it matters. I ask because you probably look a little like they do.