“People do what people see.”

I read the following passage in the John Maxwell Daily Reader (Definitely recommend!):



When times are tough, uncertainty is high, and chaos threatens to overwhelm everyone, followers need a clear picture from their leaders the most. The living picture they see in their leader produces energy, passion, and motivation to keep going. As you strive to improve as an example to your followers, remember these things:

1. Followers are always watching what you do. Just as children watch their parents and emulate their behavior, so do employees watching their bosses. People do what people see.

2. It’s easier to teach what’s right than to do what’s right. Author Norman Vincent Peale stated, “Nothing is more confusing than people who give good advice but set a bad example.” I would say a related thought is also true: “Nothing is more convincing than people who give good advice and set a good example.”

3. We should work on changing ourselves before trying to improve others. A great danger to good leadership is the temptation to try to change others without first making changes to yourself.

4. The most valuable gift a leader can give is being a good example. Leadership is more caught than taught. How does one “catch’ leadership? By watching good leaders in action!”

John Maxwell



I love all of the points, but the first one stuck out to me recently. This quote also makes a lot of sense:



As I was going through security, the line was taking exceptionally long because a dad and a TSA agent were arguing over a bottle of liquid in the gentleman’s carry-on bag. As someone who travels continuously, I know this is the case, and if you want to have liquid go with you on the plane, you will have to check it in a bag or buy it after passing through security.

My gut feeling was that he knew this as well.

That didn’t stop him from arguing.

And not only was he arguing, but he was also knowingly holding everyone else up so that he could be the exception to the well-known rule.

He eventually acquiesced, and I thought we were about ready to go. Then his daughter’s bag came through, and it also had liquids. As the TSA agent provided the option of disposing of the liquid or having her return to check the bag, she yelled at him, just like her dad. In fact, she did it exactly like her dad did only seconds earlier. She was the spitting image of her father.

Kids will copy you, no matter the example you set. Good or bad.

But listen, who am I to judge? I don’t know what is going on that day, and I also know that I am far from perfect. I share this not to shame anyone but because it reminded me of myself. 

I shared the following story in “Innovate Inside the Box” about a lesson I learned while coaching basketball in my first year of teaching:



“Having been influenced by the coaches I saw watching the NBA, I will tell you, if I didn’t like a call, I let the referees know. I would yell at the referees across the court, aware of just how much noise I could make to get their attention without crossing the “line” and earning a technical foul. As a coach, based on my NBA mentors, I saw complaining about calls as part of my job. That being said, I became frustrated when my players would complain to the referees about calls they would or wouldn’t get. The boys didn’t have the same awareness of the “line” that I did. They would mouth off, and the technical fouls they got as a result often cost our team. In my mind, I saw the yelling from my players as more about their immaturity and less about my example and my coaching.

This changed one day, a few months into my coaching career, when I was extremely frustrated with the lack of calls my team was getting. I was visibly upset with the referees and I called a timeout. Before I went to the huddle, one of the referees, who was also a teacher at another school, came over to me and said in a calm tone, “Hey, George, I know you love basketball, and I can tell you love these kids, and I can tell these kids love you. I just want you to know this: Whether you yell at us or not, your players look up to you and will do what you do. What example do you want to set?”

I never yelled at a referee again.

Not only did I not ever yell at a referee again, with this new lesson I focused more on what I could control which, first and foremost, was the example I was setting for my players. Referees still made some bad calls, but I realized yelling had little impact on what the referees would do—and a huge impact on what my players would do. So I focused on our game and my coaching, and those things changed the game for us and helped us become a better team.”

George Couros



I have thought about that interaction for the better part of my life now. I will tell you that I don’t always live up to the ideals I set out for myself on that day, but I do try.

It would be easy to judge someone else for their worst moment and write them off. Luckily, a teacher colleague saw something better in me and knew the influence I could have on the next generation. I share this all with you to pass on wisdom that was imparted to me then.

I write all this on a plane that was delayed nine hours, to the frustration of many. But I don’t think it would be right to complain or go vent on social media. No one working for the airline purposely tried to wreck my day, and they did what they could to get us out safely as soon as possible. I used the time to complete things that needed to be done, and I controlled what I could control. That includes me.

Kids are always watching; what do we want them to see?

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