Mahatma Ghandi, a man many of us see as an incredible leader and role model, is credited with challenging us to the "be the change you want to see in the world". Apparently, he was never heard to have used that phrase, but as it is very aligned with what he could have said, its a helpful inspiring sentiment for us all to remember.
What he did say was: “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”
People come to work with me because something in their work-life isn't working for them, their efforts are not yielding the rewards they were expecting. This applies to groups as well as individuals. The conversations often start of with identifying poor attitudes, habits or behaviours in others. There is normally a lot of "evidence" to suggest that if these other people behaved differently, the world would be a better place, for my clients and often for others. If only the other person/people listened more, or was less of a control freak or whatever.
This ties in with Stephen Covey's concept of the circles of influence and concern, where he advises us to focus on the things we have direct control over and step away from fretting about the things we have no control over.
Be the change you want to see is a call to focus on the difference you can make to the one thing you have a lot of control over: yourself. If we want our colleagues to listen to us, we can start by listening to them. And if we want our leaders to trust us, we need to demonstrate that we are willing to reciprocate and trust them. It takes courage to take the first step, to be vulnerable and to be generous without having any certainty that we will see any benefits.
My challenge for all of us is to be the change you want to see, because if you are different, people will notice and respond to you differently. You may get a variety of reactions, some good and some less good, but you will be able to stay confident and strong, knowing that you are the best role model for whats important to you.
Covey, S, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Simon Schuster Ltd Uk, 1990.
25 years experience in helping teams build user centred products and services, now helping digital colleagues find their happy path at work