Republished with the author’s kind permission from Muslimmatters.org.
Law of the Picture: People Do What People See
The Law of the Picture states that people will follow the leader not just in their speech, but more importantly in their actions.
Followers do what they see their leaders doing. This is an absolutely critical concept for leaders to understand.
If you lead in any capacity, at work, home or in your community, know that you are being watched!
I have to admit that I have made my fair share of mistakes during my time as a school principal. I remember one incident in which I was joking around with one of the students and I gave him a funny nickname, or what I thought was a funny nickname, but unfortunately the other students picked up on it and started referring to him with the same nickname.
It wasn’t derogatory by any means; however I could tell that the student didn’t really love being referred to by that nickname. So I tried hard to convince the other students that it was not a good thing to call him and I apologized profusely.
The nickname did eventually go away, however the fact that the student may have felt bad due to my account very much saddens me to this day. I ask Al Ghafoor to forgive me for my insensitivity.
This incident and many others taught me a powerful lesson on the importance of always trying to behave with ihsan, in particular in a leadership role.
I say that because when you’re not in a leadership position, your actions may not impact others in as great a way as it will when you’re a leader.
This principle goes so far and so deep. Just look at the Muslim leaders in the west and those who follow them. Followers of a particular movement talk like the leader, act like the leader and even start to change their physical appearance to match the dress and style of the leader.
All of this is precisely why the statement of Aisha who said that the Prophet’s character was like a walking Quran is so incredibly profound!
He walked his talk! His character was so beautiful that the companions studied and emulated his every move. The minute details of his life have been studied and followed more than any other person’s in human history. It’s the reason why you see people throughout the world brushing their teeth with miswak, wearing long garbs, turbans and cologne (athar).
Followers do what they see, so what are your followers doing?
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- How do you ensure that your actions are congruent with what you say?
- Can you think of examples of good and bad actions that your followers have done directly as a result of the example that you set? How do those things make you feel?
Law of Buy-In: People Buy into the Leader, Then the Vision
The Law of Buy-In states that people will not buy into what your vision is until they buy into you as a person and as their leader. Think about this for a second…it is almost never the case that a vision propels people forward without a credible leader pushing that vision forward.
Social Media has changed that phenomenon a bit, however for a viral video, message or cause to really make a broad impact, there are leaders that take center stage and make that cause real and take it beyond what it was only on Facebook, Twitter, Vine or YouTube.
In terms of the Prophet’s life, this is law provides a fascinating insight into Allah’s Divine wisdom in selecting and preparing the Prophet in particular to carry out this message.
A man of great integrity; a man of the noblest character; a man of great internal and external strength; a man of excellent dress and of medium height and build; the most handsome of men; a man of balanced temperament; a man of great wisdom and patience; an orphan and a former shepherd; this was the man that was selected by Allah to bring the final and perfect message from God to mankind.
It was easy for the people to buy into the Prophet because he exemplified Noble Character and had an amazing combination of perfectly balanced qualities.
Even when his enemies tried to defame him, they really couldn’t because anyone who met him and met them would know clearly who was on the path of truth and who wasn’t.
When people met him, they knew just by looking at him that he was a person of honesty and integrity; that they were not looking at the face of a liar or dishonest man.
Obviously, we can’t share the physical attributes of the Prophet, but we can try to emulate his character and prophetic qualities. If we want to be leaders and agents of positive influence, then people will have to buy into us before they buy into what we’re selling.
Reflection Questions on the Law:
- When taking on a new position of leadership, was it easy or difficult to get the people to buy into you? How so?
- When trying to set a new vision for your organization, school or community, what steps do you need to take in order to get them to first buy into you and then your vision?