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Back in 2015, I ran a print on demand store selling wallet cases and other phone accessories.
That business failed, but one of my mistakes reminded me of a powerful leadership lesson that still serves me today.
Here’s the story:
I followed an up-and-coming guru who seemed to be the ecommerce expert.
He was stylish, so his prints always looked good.
He was charismatic and spoke well on camera.
And he had a lot going for him.
His YouTube channel was growing like crazy.
But then it happened. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but he spilled the beans.
He insinuated that he wasn’t making any money from his POD products. Everything that he made was from YouTube.
And everything in his videos was staged. Or at least that’s the impression I got.
In that moment, I could feel the respect I had for this person drain out of me.
My bubble was burst…
It was a weird moment because he recognized that he said something he shouldn’t have in the video.
You could see the gears grinding in his brain… But he didn’t remove it from the recording.
And that was the end.
His videos went from getting 50,000 views to 5,000 views.
He lost the motivation to keep working.
He probably got a lot of hate mail too.
And I have no idea what happened to him after that. He disappeared.
Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon.
Some guru is always getting caught lying and cheating their audience.
The Liver King is the most recent example. He claimed to eat strange animals and raw foods to strengthen his liver and get buff. He is a big dude, so he attracted a lot of "manly men" who needed to do bizarre things and get shredded to prove their masculinity.
But none of it worked... Turns out he was just taking steroids.
And his audience was crushed at this realization.
But today’s social media world encourages this behavior.
Look at our so-called celebrities.
Celebrities use social media to wish each other a happy birthday, or to say congratulations on winning the Oscar, or to give condolences for a loss…
And if it isn’t done publicly, it’s like it never happened at all.
Heaven forbid picking up the phone to call them. Or reaching out privately.
But this publicity game cascades down to the rest of culture.
So we live in a culture where things don't actually happen if you don't post a picture of it on social media.
Translation: People favor talking over action. Words over deeds.
It’s easy to say things online. It’s hard to mean them and follow them up in the real world.
But this gap gives rise to a forgotten leadership style that creates real followers.
Where posturing on social media creates a vain and entitled audience, action creates a loyal and dedicated audience.
And by using this leadership style, you break down any resistance your audience has and turn it into motivation to work with you.
It happens naturally... its not a tactic or a trick.
And it happens without the need for boasting about how cool you are or how much money you make.
It's a feature of human nature.
People are drawn to leaders.
But you don’t have to be loud or over the top to be a leader. You don’t have to lie or take advantage of your followers.
All you have to do is demonstrate the right approach—lead by example.
Leading by example, following your own advice, is the only way to prove that you are being honest and authentic.
And this authenticity breaks down barriers, creates hope in your audience, and bonds them to you.