The Imitation Game

by Andy Wood on August 11, 2016

in Five LV Laws, Following Your Passion, Leadership, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Legacy

It was a funny exercise. The memory-making type of thing that happens randomly when you spend time hanging out with kids. Or in my case, grandkids.

Laura Kate and Shepherd (#1 and #3 of 9 if you’re keeping score) were in the back seat and we were headed home from a VBS family night. With everybody’s schedule crossways on this particular night, I got to be the “family.” We’d had the program, topped off by some awesome brain-freezing shaved ice. They had played in the bounce houses some, and now we had escaped the Alabama humidity and were back in the truck headed to their house.

We got to talking about different sounds that animals make, and I was asking them if they could imitate them. Then, on a whim, I asked, “Can you imitate Fischer?”

Fischer is their four-year-old little brother.

Laura Kate popped up: “Mama, Shepuhd and Sistuh huht my feewings.”

You just had to be there… It was dead-on and hysterically funny.

We went from that to others, like their parents, but the first one was the hit of the night.

Who doesn’t love a good impression – especially a funny one?  And it’s true, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – even to an 8-year-old.

It’s also a raw demonstration of leadership at a very fundamental level.  People imitate what stands out about a person. And I don’t mean their funny accents or lines for laughs.  For better or worse, kids do what they see (or sense!) their parents and other adults do.  It’s “follow the leader” when they’re playing for keeps.

But follow the leader is more complex than that because even the leader is following somebody.

So how about you? Who are you following? And who’s following you?

Is He Serious?

In one of the brashest statements in all the Bible, Paul the Apostle said to a group of people he referred to as spiritual juveniles: “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Seriously?  Why would he say such an egotistical-sounding thing?

Because he knew he was following Christ, and he knew they needed some examples of what that looked like.  These people were asking questions about “grey area” issues where there was no black-and-white answer. So Paul was hashing through some of that.  He concludes with this:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:31-33).

Then he drops that connect-the-dots statement to them – “Just do what I do.”

Here is the reality of leadership and influence.  People will do what you do if you have any influence on them at all, and Paul knew that.  And to be honest, you don’t have any control over that.  As Jesus once said, people don’t light torches and hide them under baskets. Your influence is showing, and people will imitate it. The only thing you have control over is who you are allowing to influence you.

And You ARE Following Somebody

You may be thinking, “I don’t follow anybody – I follow my own counsel.”

Then you have an idiot for an advisor.

Of course you have influences. And you will see those influences coming out in the lives, work, relationships and priorities of those you influence.  So before you complain too loudly about your business or church, school or householdbeing loaded with a bunch of selfish, back-stabbing or lazy people, you may want to take a hard look at whose example they’re following.

Who are you imitating? And who’s imitating you?

So How Can You Tell?

It’s easy to claim to be imitating Christ or some other desirable influence. But how can you tell?  Here is a random sampling of things to look for.

  1. Who do you spend extended time studying or admiring? We all become like those we observe and admire the most.
  2. What mental models to you use to imagine your life and work? WWJD (What would Jesus do?) is a mental model. It’s not a perfect one, but it is an intentional one. David famously used a mental model of a shepherd/sheep relationship in the 23rd Psalm. What mental images guide your thinking?
  3. Who do you engage with on a regular basis? It’s true that a person is known by the company he or she keeps.
  4. Who do you allow to change your thinking or decisions? My wife does that all the time because she’s a major influencer in my life. So are some other trusted counselors and friends. But what if I allow my thinking or decisions to be changed by the threat of ridicule or social pressure (Hey, it happens)?
  5. Who do you have a sense of obligation to? If you feel duty-bound or have been profoundly affected by someone else’s kindness or goodness, you will imitate them. But that can lead you in many different directions – some great, some terrible.
  6. Who to you turn to in order to get you unstuck? Whoever helps make sense out of the confusion, offers counsel or encouragement, or has the power to spark new ideas or give you renewed passion is a major influencer in your life.  Again, it could be healthy or unhealthy.

Wherever you find the answers to questions like that will determine who is most influencing your children, your constituents, and your employees.

So who are you imitating? And who’s imitating you?

Martha Orlando August 12, 2016 at 7:53 am

I pray my life is imitating Christ’s more and more, Andy.
Wonderful post!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..New Every Morning

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