There are a number of different stories, metaphors, and analogies about the effects of actions a person takes on both their environment and the people around them. I've read a number of them from eastern-based philosophy and poetry. Some are quite beautiful and meaningful. One of my favorite mental images on which I center is that of a beautiful, placid pond. This pond, in my vision, has raindrops falling on it, each of them casting ripples that intersect with one another.
Every person who lives, every person who fosters a career, is continually making ripples. This statement is especially true when you view the impact of a leader. As a steward of people, not just resources, a leader is constantly having an effect on everyone around them. Keeping this principle in mind, it is important to consider just what kind of ripples each of us makes.
There is an axiom about management that says people leave their leaders, not their companies. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/louisefron/2013/06/24/six-reasons-your-best-employees-quit-you/)
If this is true, and it surely is, the "ripples" created by these types of people are very inharmonious. Therefore if you aspire to be a good leader and someone who makes a positive difference it is very important to understand that everything you do has an effect on someone. If you have been a leader for a number of years, have you ever had someone tell you what an impression you made on their life and you never even knew it? One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was very similar. As a first-time manager, my supervisor said, "Welcome to the club." From now on, consider that everything you say and do will be recorded. Because you are now "the boss", people will look to you as inspiration for all that is noble or, conversely, without virtue."
What is the takeaway from what I've just said? It should be easy to understand. Try to be the best you can be, even when you think nobody is watching. Every action you take is spreading out across all of the people around you.
From the perspective of your career the same is also true. People I know who are experts in the Talent, Coaching, and Recruiting businesses all tell me the same thing. Your future success, in part, depends on the people you've known and know currently. In fact, the opportunities in life that come your way will also come from these same people. The funny thing is that you can never predict just "who" in your circle of influence will generate the "what" in terms of opportunity. So whether you think someone is below you in life, at your level, or a superior - how you act towards them, the ripples you send, will always help determine the direction in which your life will go.
It makes no difference if you're a "placid pond" or a "turbulent ocean", pay attention to the ripples you create (and you're always creating them). The splashes you make today will resonate to the most unlikely of places.