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The Importance of Modeling By Alex McElroy

 Modeling –  What You See and What You Do

In his book, Urban Apologetics, Christopher Brooks recounts the following story on the importance of modeling.

On May 6, 1954, on the Iffley Road Track in Oxford, England, Bannister did what was previously assumed to be impossible, and, by physiologists of his era, even dangerous. He ran a mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. What is even more significant is the event that took place just forty-six days later. For nearly two millennia no human being was able to run an entire mile in under four minutes; but after Bannister showed the world it was possible, John Landry completed the same feat in Finland just forty-six days later, breaking Bannister’s record. Today, it is very common for professional runners to complete the mile in less than 4 minutes. Many credited this advancement in running to the power that seeing a visual example can have on a group of people.

As an apologist, it is equally important for me to provide concrete facts and evidence as it is to help people integrate that information into their lives in a practical way. Likewise, leaders in every arena should be focused both on giving a clear vision to those they lead and modeling the actions necessary to collectively accomplish that vision.

Oftentimes, we, like Landry, don’t really know what we’re capable of until we are pushed beyond our self-prescribed limits. Once we get a glimpse of what could be done or what is being done, our mind seems to shift and those boundaries that were once so set in stone now seem to be stepping stones as opposed to unscalable walls. Who has come into your life and shown by example that what you thought was impossible was in fact achievable? Leaders, are you leading the charge or only ordering others into the fight while you watch from afar? It has been said that perception is reality…but perceptions can change. 


I have some mentors who have mentored me from afar, but the most impactful mentors were those who have mentored me up close and personal. They discipled me, which means they were in my life and I was in theirs. A parent raising a child will have more teachable moments with them than a camp counselor because they are closer to that child for longer periods of time. It is impossible to model good behavior if whomever you are modeling for is never or seldom around. This seems obvious but what is plain is not always practiced. How many leaders have given a directive but were seldom present to demonstrate the correct implementation of that directive? I recently read a story of a woman who went to Europe for 12 days and left her 4 children (all under 12) at home alone. This is an extreme example but it does illustrate the inability to lead those who you aren’t around. Proximity increases influence and influence is a primary component for great leadership.


Before Roger Bannister ran a sub-4-minute mile, John Landry likely had a very different perspective on whether or not it could be done. However, his perspective changed once he witnessed this accomplishment. In reality, seeing Sir Bannister complete this feat didn’t give John Landry super powers that he didn’t have forty-six days prior. He was still the same man and most likely still trained the same way. What changed was his perspective of what was possible. Thoughts precipitate actions. As a leader the best way to advance your company, ministry, organization, team or family is to get those around you to elevate their thoughts. A parent that gets a promotion or starts a new business or writes a book changes their child’s perception of what’s possible without saying anything. A leader who believes their organization can achieve greater success and then increases their own productivity to that end inspires their employees, teammates, or volunteers to expect greater without saying a word. Perceptions are not static. They can be buoyed or crushed.


Once someone is close enough to learn or see something that changes their perception, their ultimate presentation of the fulfillment of their purpose becomes that much more spectacular. Every Olympics, some athlete in some sport breaks someone else’s World record. This means that athletes, who just four years ago did what had never been done, are routinely outdone by other athletes. In fact, modeling is so effective that sometimes athletes break their own World records. Sometimes we get too focused on what we haven’t accomplished. But what have you done that you never thought you could do? What has someone else done after watching you that they never thought they could do? What are you modeling that will have a lasting impact on the world and in the lives of those around you? The mark of a great leader is not in what you build but in what those who follow you are able to sustain.


Alex McElroy is an international speaker who has taught thousands of people how to lead and live out their purpose in life. He is a passionate speaker, teacher, leader, business owner, author, as well as a faithful husband and a devoted father.


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