The Power and Influence of Example

Depositphotos Image ID: 51153561 Copyright: Kruchenkova

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?

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Tribute to Nelson Mandela

From  (Photo Credit: Corbis)

(Photo Credit: Corbis)

The world mourns the death of a great man today, Nelson Mandela. On the way into work, I listened to an interview with Johnny Clegg, a white British man, who formed the first integrated rock band in South Africa. He wrote Asimbonanga ((Mandela) in 1987.

Mandela was in prison at the time. He was imprisoned for 27 years. His release came in 1990.

It was illegal at the time Johnny Clegg wrote the song to possess even the likeness of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Before reading further, take a moment to watch Johnny Clegg perform Asimbonanga in 1999 with Nelson Mandela making an appearance.

Asimbonanga——————–(we have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ umandela thina—–(we have not seen mandela)
Laph’ekhona——————–(in the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona————–(in the place where he is kept)
Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the island into the bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water
A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me

Clegg explained in the interview I heard this morning that the song was inspired by the Poet, John Dunne, who wrote “no man is an island”. The meaning of the words written by Clegg were that as long as Mandela was imprisoned and separated from the nation, all people were separated from each other.

The song was prophetic, in that Mandela was freed in 1990. He went on to become President of South Africa, a country in which a very short time before would not allow white people and black people to interact legally. The lifting of Apartheid brought the people of South Africa together; it lifted the weight of Apartheid from the shoulders of all South Africans, black and white, said Johnny Clegg.

Nelson Mandela is a man who stood strong against the evil of separation. He did it not with violence or anger, but with peace and love. He did it by refusing to succumb to the pressures that make people bitter, hateful and spiteful. He did it by loving himself, his people, his captors and everyone who met him. He was a light in the dark night of Apartheid by refusing to let Apartheid define him.

Imagine having spent 27 years in prison for nothing other than being black and refusing to accept the man-made separation between people of different colored skin. Yet, he did not allow the wrong of Apartheid to conform him to its image; he did not allow Apartheid to harden his own heart; he did not allow it to create separation in his own heart between himself and the people who created the separation.

Nelson Mandela found a higher perspective, and he lived it. By living it, he paved the way for change. He showed the world how real change is affected. It is affected by standing firm on higher principles, self-sacrifice, refusing to bend to hate and responding to everything and everyone with an unwavering love. This is a very short summary of the impact Nelson Mandela had in the world in which he become the catalyst for dramatic change on this day after Nelson Mandela’s death at the age of 94: Nelson Mandela’s Release from Prison

Potential Colored Glasses

IKWF StateStosh Walsh knocked this one out the park in his blog on leadership and marriage, and I think he is on to something. I am now looking to wear “potential colored glasses” all the time!

Actually, I discovered them myself, after many years of fathering and coaching my sons.

Truthfully, I only discovered them after trial and error with my older sons and learned to apply them with my 3rd and 4th sons. I believe I actually helped them to be very successful in their wrestling careers in which they attained a large portion of their potential. (And they are still attaining it.) I discovered “potential covered glasses” coaching, but that is where I left them.

What I did not fully see, and what Stosh has uncovered in his post, is that there is a way to view people and relate to people – especially people who we love and care about – all the time that will bring out the best in them. These glass are not limited to coaching; the principle can be applied to anyone over whom we may have influence: co-workers, employees, kids that we coach, girls scouts and boy scouts, anyone with whom we may some influence in our lives, even friends and neighbors.

Another way to put it is “seeing the best in people”, but I think it is more than that. It is affirming, encouraging, and sometimes challenging, people to live up to potential.

There is a difference between having unrealistic expectations and seeing the potential in others. Unrealistic expectations can be a burden. I am no psychologist, but I imagine that unrealistic expectations have more to do with how I want someone to be than what or who a person actually is. Potential is also not wishful thinking. Potential is grounded in reality.

At the same time, a person who practices seeing potential, focusing on encouragement and building others up, bring out the best in other person. I know this because I have seen it work.

When my 20 year old was a 74 pound 8th grader dreaming of a career in professional baseball, I knew better, but I did not have the heart to discourage him. Instead, I encouraged him in wrestling, where he really had potential and size did not matter.

As an 89 pound freshman, I thought he should hone his wrestling skills with off season competition, but he tried out and made the freshman baseball team. Dreams die hard, and I was not going to be the killer of his dreams, however unlikely. His coach told me he had the best arm and glove in the outfield, but he mostly “rode the pine” because the coach wanted the bigger guys in the lineup who could really drive the ball. Maybe my son had the potential to be a great baseball player, but the coach did not see the potential. My son got discouraged.

I saw a different potential in wrestling and encouraged him in that direction. He had to learn for himself that maybe he was just too small to be the baseball player he wanted to be. With new-found inspiration to focus on wrestling, and with the right doses of encouragement, he qualified for the State tournament as an underweight sophomore (even at the lowest weight class). As a Junior he soared to the State finals in a very competitive weight class crowded with talent, where he came up just short of a State championship! I did not even imagine that his potential could take him to those heights, but I saw potential, encouraged it, and he became a believer in his own potential.

During these growing up years for me (as a parent), I learned kids grow strong with the gentle water of encouragement. Unfortunately, I learned through my errors, that a different approach can have negative results. I am convinced that, if we spend more time affirming and encouraging, and less time criticizing and pointing out faults, that we will have better relationships and better results from our leading, whether we are leading sons and daughters or spouses, employees, little leaguers and whoever might be following our lead.

Sports psychologists talk about the importance of visualization. People teach athletes the technique of visualizing successful performance. In the world of wrestling, which is a sport that is part of the fabric of my life and family, visualization would be used to imagine executing a perfect move, picturing a winning match against a tough opponent, from shot to counter shot, through every move and counter move to the final tick on the clock and getting an arm raised in victory. The ability to visualize success is important to establishing confidence and achieving success.

If visualization of success for one’s self can help you with confidence and actual success, it can work for instilling confidence in others and helping others to achieve success. Maybe even more so! When someone has confidence in me, I am inspired to perform well, if for no other reason than to live up to that confidence.

Stosh focuses on marriage and spouses. I wish that I read his article years ago. It is funny how I have learned so much about being a leader to my kids (again after much trial and error), while I feel that I remain a relative novice being a good husband and leader for my wife. Stosh reminds us that we are all leaders, even if we are leaders to no one other than our spouses and children. In reality, we are all influencers of many more people, beginning with family, and extending to friends, neighbors and others in our daily lives. Our homes are the places to try on the potential colored glasses and get used to wearing them, but those glasses can be worn wherever we go, wherever we mix with people on a regular basis. Imagine a world in which potential colored glasses where the fashionable things to wear!