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Confucius Says “You inspire others with your principles.”

Published by Christopher Daily on August 27th, 2013 - in Business Musings, IMO


Ok, I don’t really believe Confucous actually said this.

So we are at our Indiana house, bored as we watch movers pack up our life’s treasures. I stumble across a box of stuff (junk) and find messages from Chinese fortune cookies that my wife has saved. I am not sure why she saved them, but don’t dare to ask. As I was idly looking at these gems of wisdom, the message above caught my eye.

There are a lot of famous leadership phrases that get tossed around by managers. I am as guilty as anybody of repeating something I have heard. Most of the time, I don’t even know who the originating author was, or what the context was. So why should the message from a fortune cookie be any different?

Let’s say it again: “You inspire others with your principles.” When was the last time you thought about your principles or ethics? When it benefitted you?

Are principles and ethics borne in our DNA or are they learned behavior? I don’t have any idea. My daughter told me that it might be both. I believe people around us learn best by observation.

Our learning starts immediately after birth. YouTube is filled videos of babies that are mimicing adults. As we grow older, we continue to learn by watching those around us in a variety of situations. Our observations of our parents, grandparents, family, friends, coaches, and even TV provide ample opportunities for us to learn the underlying principles. Over time, our own version of principles in terms of right and wrong are permanently engrained in our brain. As we age, we are less influenced by those around us. Because principles get embedded in our brain early, it is often difficult to modify them later. The term “They are set in their ways!” is used to explain why some people won’t change.

As we interact in our daily lives, others are observing us. Our sons and daughters learn about relationships by watch their parents. Our co-workers learn about principles in the work place by watching their peers. Leaders establish the bar for what principles will be followed in their organizations by the principles they demonstrate. I intentionally left the word “communicate” out of the last sentence.

Remember: Our actions speak louder than our words.

Thanks for coming in today.

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