Here’s how you lead: You go out and do something you think everyone ought to be doing, and do it so successfully that other people follow you. That is: You lead from the front, by example.
Here’s how you rule: You decide what everyone else ought to be doing, and you threaten them with punishment if they don’t do it. That is: You rule from above, by coercion.
Leading is showing. Ruling is telling.
If you’re hoping to ‘unify’ a group of people — whether that’s as large as a country, or as small as a sports team — it’s important to know the difference, because you can’t unify people through coercion. Even if the people you’re coercing seem to be going along with your program, you can be sure that they’re constantly looking for ways to game, undermine, dismantle, or reverse it.
You think everyone ought to be refraining from certain kinds of behaviors (like smoking pot, or gambling)? Start with a smaller group — like 70 million Republicans — who are willing to exercise that restraint, and show everyone else how well it’s working out for them.
You think everyone ought to be pooling their money to pay for certain services (like medical care, or education)? Start with a smaller group — like 70 million Democrats — who believe in this approach, and show everyone else how well it’s working out for them.
Demonstrate the success of an approach, and people will want to copy what you’re doing.
How do we know this? Note that we have patents because everyone in business understands that a good idea, once it becomes known, will be relentlessly copied. Copied and improved. Without having to force anyone to do anything.
Why do politicians have so much trouble with this idea?