Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” He didn’t say hope for change, wish for change or wait for change. He said to be the change. Gandhi “walked his talk” as he influenced millions worldwide by showing the power of unity, discipline and peaceful protest in freeing his people to pursue their chosen destiny. Gandhi’s model of leadership provides us with a powerful example of the warrior spirit at work.
As leaders, we must understand that 1) change must start somewhere and 2) it can start with us. When it comes to leading our teams, organizations or communities to shift attitudes and actions, it’s not just important to tell people what change looks like, but to show them. As leaders, we need to understand that it is unfair and unrealistic to expect anything from others that we are not willing to show or share first. We can’t expect our people to be enthusiastic if we’re not. We can’t expect them to have integrity, be on time, treat others with respect, etc. if we’re not already there and working on it every day.
Be the change you want to see in the world – and within your teams. Instead of waiting to see it in others, we must be it and lead others by example. It doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes or stumble along the way. It means we’ll stay positive, keep our sense of humor, lead with integrity, and to act instead of hoping, wishing or waiting for change. It also means we’ll commit to inspiring others not look at the situation as it is, but to create a vision of how it could be. After all, visions are regarded as powerful and sacred in our Native culture because they are what really move people to change and improve.
Healthcare experts have explored what it takes to truly create change in attitudes and actions. When doctors, faced with cases of very unhealthy people, bluntly state, “If you continue to live like this, you’ll die in two years.” A handful, motivated by fear, will make temporary changes but most will make none. A much better result comes when doctors say, “If you change the way you live, imagine how you’ll feel, how you’ll look, what kind of example you’ll be setting for your kids.” It takes sharing a vision of what success looks like, feels like and tastes like. The key to change starts in the mind.
People can lose hope when they don’t have reminders that things truly can get and be better. We can be that reminder and display our warrior spirit at work when we stay positive, show resilience and continue to be a coach, friend and encourager-in-chief to those we lead and serve. That outward display of cynicism or apathy sometimes shown by others may be because it’s been so long since they have seen a positive attitude, a resilient mindset or a respectful demeanor, that they’ve forgotten what it looks like. Be the example.
I also believe we can play a vital role in creating positive change by actively sharing our stories with others – in person, in print and online. Sharing our successes, failures, the wisdom gained through struggles, the fears overcome and the thrill of accomplishing big goals, can inspire and impress upon others what they can do for themselves and those they serve. Our oral traditions taught lessons, values and virtues and worked the same way – they inspired others to change, to live right and to succeed – by sharing stories. We can lead by example and play a critical role in supplying what is often in short supply across our communities…hope. We can make things better. And it can start with us.