Steven Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is very up-to-date, although it was published in 1989: it’s about the circle of influence and the circle of concern.
People often get discouraged in difficulties, especially when they feel that they cannot directly influence events. This happens when they focus on things out of themselves, things they can’t control.
For example, despite all theories about leadership and control, it is good to clarify that we cannot control people, we can only have the illusion to do so. Men are free to choose, they can indulge and pretend, but when you force them to follow you without their full consent, you will both suffer the consequences.
So, what is the solution?
What can I do if the “boss” wants things to be done this way?
What can I do if the factory is about to be shot down?
And what can I do if politicians decided the fate of my country?
It depends. If you’re focused on concern, you will feel helpless and frustrated, you would like to change everything but you feel that it is not up to you.
Do you want to win the lottery? Unfortunately, it is not up to you. Do you want to give a million to that charity that is so close to your heart? Unfortunately, it’s not up to you.
Do you want to change the culture of the company you work in? Unfortunately, it’s not up to you.
There’s only one thing you can do, always: giving the example. No ifs, no buts: if you want something, roll up your sleeves and give the example of the change you want to see. Gandhi exhorted us to start changing the small things.
In the film “Gung Ho”, some workers are sorely tried by a management culture which is very different from the American one; they give up just before reaching the monthly goal and go on strike. The business of the whole city and livelihood of a lot of families are in danger.
The two leaders could have wondered: “What can we do?” But then they wouldn’t have been good leders, because the leader leads by example, not by alibi.
Hunt and Kazahiro know that there is only one thing that can move mountains: the strength of the example.
This is what happens when you’re the first to roll up your sleeves. When you first watch the clip, maybe you expect that at least one of them would beg or encourage the workers: they don’t say a word instead. They are peaceful, they know that example will do it.
This is what happens when you turn your thought into action.
At first they will mock you.
Then they’ll wonder why.
Then they’ll doubt your intentions (They do it to look good with the Japanese, to cover their own asses)
Then someone will begin to understand and to be by your side, until most of them will feel influenced by your strength.
The example is the only way to show your consistency and when you are credible in the eyes of those close to you, you will first influence one, then two, then ten and then a mass of people who can change rules and culture.
It is said that Gandhi was visited in his cell by a desperate mother with her son. The woman, terrified of the child’s health, asked him to use his influence and make her son stop eating sugar. The Mahatma asked her to come back after a week.
When the woman came back, Gandhi bent down and looking into the eyes of his son said: “Stop eating sugar”. The woman, annoyed, asked the reason why she was forced to walk all those miles again to get an order that could have been given the previous week. Gandhi replied: “No. Because last week I was still eating sugar”.
Maybe this story is fictional and I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I do know for a fact that the power and energy of a command transmitted from consistency have far greater effects than those of business school techniques and strategies.
With a consistent example you can inspire your partner, then your family, then your community, your country and finally you can change the world. We don’t have to become holy, but changing a little would be a great achievement. You can always start with the little things, which are the big things in life.