Leading by example is often more effective than leading by fiat. More than that, it’s a lasting kind of leadership – the difference between getting what you want now and being guaranteed it in the future. Which hasn’t stopped me from engaging in the latter far more than I should. And I’m not alone in that.
If there’s one thing that’s kept me relatively sane under the current administration, it’s not listening to what people say. It’s mostly ass-covering, complaints, and crowd pleasing. It is a way to rationalize a point of view, no matter how reasonable or unreasonable. Accusations of weakness, bias, corruption, blah blah blah. Blame, blame, blame. And as a result, led by each other’s example, we turn to blame in our own lives: attacking someone else for our lack of success, versus actively searching for a solution.
So I try only to respond to actions. Not what people say they’ll do or hope to do, but what gets done. It’s what’s driven me to write stories and learn new things, challenging myself with goals instead of hopes. I think we all would prefer some omnipotent force stepping in, making life easier, making all our dreams come true, but the truth is that life is struggle. And how you respond to that struggle goes beyond yourself.
The concept always makes me think of my wife (and Unlife’s editor), Jena. As I’ve previously mentioned, Jena is a vegan. She does this for ethical reasons; she reasons that since she can make this difference, she should. And she’s had to weather some awkward storms and countless questions as a result of this choice, but she’s stood her ground, and never once in our five years of marriage has she tried to convert me or anyone else. Instead, she moves forward on a slow march.
And it is truly slow. The unfortunate truth is the whole world won’t just become vegan overnight, even if flawless meat and cheese substitutes were magicked into existence tomorrow. Entire industries would push back against the threat to their businesses, farms, and jobs. And if you think people reacted strongly to the thought of losing their guns, just try and take their steaks and cheeseburgers. It wouldn’t even matter if a synthetic option tasted better or was healthier, or even, deep down, struck most people as the right thing to do. Change is slow, and takes the bravery of people who lead by example.
And when you lead by example, you may start off tripping and falling, no one there to catch you. But one day you find that someone else is there to back you up. People who weren’t asked, but followed of their own accord. And it’s that way with my wife. Since meeting her, I have seen many people, from vegetarians to hardcore meat eaters, find their own moral strength. And to me, that’s what real leadership is. Inspiration through example.
And, for what it’s worth, if I can give our current political climate any sort of credit, it has inspired me to get more active in my community and lead by my own example. I just hope I’m not following too far behind.