It’s a painful realisation when it comes, but the truth is that with one noticeable exception the world consists of other people! It is so easy to be so preoccupied with ourselves that we forget this simple, but important truth. It is human nature to automatically assume the way I see something is the way it is, rather than there may be at least one other perspective. Getting married often brings that truth home!

So how do you come across? How do others see you? What kind of example do you set? That picture you present to the world is what will govern your leadership and influence. Just having good intentions is not enough.

The pictures below are more illustrative of paradigms and paradigm shifts (for more on that see here), but they also illustrate the issue of differing perspectives. We look at ourselves one way and others can see us in a completely different way.


So how do you come across? How do others see you? What kind of example do you set?

These are the kinds of questions that come from John Maxwell’s 13th law of leadership – people do what people see. Another way to put that is, “I can’t hear what you are saying, because who you are is speaking too loudly.” What we say is on audio, but who we are is on video. In organisations and companies when there is an obvious disconnect between what is publicly espoused and what is actually lived out, there is the potential for cynicism and disillusionment. The greatest leaders are aware of this and ruthless with themselves and their organisation to ensure that gap is as small as possible.

The story is told of a woman coming with her husband to Mahatma Gandhi, saying “Tell my husband to give up sugar as it is not good for his health.” Gandhi is reported as replying, “Come back to me  in a week.” The couple duly returned a week later and Gandhi said, to the man, “You must give up sugar, It is not good for you.” They were somewhat puzzled and asked, “Why did you take a week to tell us that?” Gandhi is reported to have candidly replied, “I stopped taking sugar a week ago myself!”

Here are 4 implications of the The Law of The Picture that people do what people see:

  • The way we live sends a message out to others. 
    Is it the message I want them to hear? The truth is consciously or unconsciously people are always watching to see if there is congruity between what we say and what we actually do. Companies and organisations proudly have vision and mission statements displayed on walls for all to see. But the most important thing is what happens behind closed doors when no else is watching.
  • It’s easier to teach what is right, than do what is right.
    Ouch! That is painful to hear, especially when you are writing a blog post aiming to teach others important principles on life! In many ways words are cheap, but it is how we live that counts.
  • We should work on changing ourselves, before trying to improve others.
    That is why the example of Gandhi is so powerful. The other important truth is that the one person in the universe who I have the most amount of control over is myself.
  • The most valuable gift you can give to others is to be a good example.
    Others are not so much looking for perfection as an authenticity to who we are as people. When my life and my words do not match up (which sooner or later they will do), am I willing to be honest about the gap or do I deflect by looking at the other person’s failings? (For more on this see How Do I Deal With My Ego?)


What thoughts, questions and comments does The Law of The Picture raise for you?