We tend to become like the people we choose to associate with. Paul was peaking of this tendency when he warned the Corinthians: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) But it works in reverse as well, and the influence of example is nowhere more important than with leadership.
So Jesus taught that the greatest leader among us is the one who becomes the servant of all. He said, “Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20:26) If our leaders were our greatest servants, imagine what their followers would be like?
In another place, Jesus was heard to have said, “[L]et the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.” (Luke 22:26) The one who would be the greatest should be the one who is willing to learn from others, willing to listen and willing to be open to others. A leader who is willing to do that and willing to serve others sets the example for others to follow, and follow willingly, joyfully.
Just as bad company corrupts good morals, good company raises us to higher levels of decency, honor, civility and society. Good leaders bring out the best in others more by example than by any other influence.
“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” Albert Schweitzer
“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” Kenneth H. Blanchard
“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.” George Eliot
“We are like chameleons, we take our hue and the color of our moral character, from those who are around us.” John Locke
The power and influence of example can be seen in the animal world too: