Read this terrific article on leadership by Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology of Swarthmore College. The article (published by the National Internet) focuses on the "tyranny of the commons"--how to overcome the tough problem of individuals making everyday small choices that hurt the greater society over the longer run. How do you inspire people to change how their daily behaviors that harm the environment, for example? Schwartz looks at two themes that I write about at length in my new book Walk the Walk. In this passage he writes about the power of leading by example:
"The Obama vegetable garden by itself isn’t going to change how Americans eat. But many social phenomena are susceptible to what Duke economics and political science professor Timur Kuran describes as “informational cascades.” Someone out there who won’t take the lead in using cloth bags is almost ready to do so. Just one example will tip that person’s behavior. And once there are two adherents, other people, whose “tipping threshold” is a bit higher, will come on board. This will make it easier for others, and so on. Before you know it, plastic grocery bags will have gone the way of the rotary phone."
And here Prof. Schwartz underscores another important theme that I discuss in "Walk the Walk": the necessity of leaders sharing the struggle with the rest of us:
"As economist Robert Frank has observed, people, like states, care more about their relative position in a social or economic hierarchy than they do about their absolute position. Better to keep your thermostat at seventy-eight degrees in summer when others are doing the same than to keep it at seventy-four when others have theirs at seventy-two. Knowing that 'we’re all in the same boat' matters to people just as it does to states. And sacrifice must be shared in a way that is publicly verifiable because people, like states, care about fairness. They care enough to punish those who exploit power, even at a cost to themselves..."
There's much more rich detail and fascinating thinking in Prof. Schwartz's article. Check it out!