If you want to test your leadership, turn around. If no one is following you, you are just on a walk.
What makes people follow someone?
- You are going to a destination and they want to join you. If I want to go to Greece, I would ask if someone had been there and what the most enjoyable part of the trip was. I’d also ask the mode of travel and some contingencies to plan for. I’d want to find the good places to eat and the sights to see. If I found someone I knew also going to Greece, I’d ask if I could join him/her. What would happen if the destination was not a place but an accomplishment in life, such as an advanced degree or a certification? You’d still want the information wouldn’t you? Have you been someplace where others want to go? Have you been a business leader, a speaker, a college graduate, a mentor…? If you can take people where you’ve gone, you are a leader. You have to find out what their intended destination is, and where they are now is your starting point.
- You have a cause you are particularly passionate about. People like being part of something that is bigger than just one person. Someone that is raising money for cancer research might draw people who have the same passion. Someone that forms a music group to play in the area might draw musicians looking for a place or excuse to play. You might have a crusade against a particularly heinous business practice, or unfair treatment of those who cannot fight back, or underfunded schools. The causes are wide ranged. Unfortunately, it also attracts unsavory characters that prey on people who follow causes. “Hello, I’m calling to see if you can support our ‘blah blah blah’ that just don’t get enough appreciation. The money will go to the widows and orphans.” (What’s implied is they don’t have life insurance or death benefits on their 401k’s, and their family can’t live on the measly pension.) You see how they use people’s good intentions to send them money? It’s easier to give money than to actually do something to change the circumstances. People go for the quick fix and scammers play on that. You must differentiate yourself from them. The cause must be important, and you must have it burning in your heart. A cursory interest will inspire no one.
- You instill bravery. You give them a safety net that allows them to do something they’ve never tried but always wanted to do. People have wanted to do lots of things but due to fear, inexperience, lack of funds, or lack of information, they put off their dreams. We all know someone that has a great story to tell, but won’t write the book. Many people who have worked in a cubical dream of running their own businesses. People fantasize about becoming famous in some way. If you have information, expertise, or connections that can help them get enough courage to try to reach a long held goal that had seemed unattainable, they will follow you. Toastmasters does this–gives people a safe place to fail and helps them refine public speaking and leadership skills. College also fills this void. Boy and Girl Scouts, Masons, and Multi-Level Marketing also gives people opportunities to get people’s feet wet. Once again, because this desire to do or be something special can lead to scammers that promise things they can’t deliver, one must be vigilant and do the research before getting involved in any opportunity. You must be honest in your appeal–do not over promise. Always over deliver.
If you cannot offer one of these incentives, you may indeed be just taking a walk.