People Don’t Follow You Just Because You Know Leadership
People follow and fully give their heart to leaders who are passionate and fully devoted to a cause or a vision. Without this key ingredient, people will not come with us, really come along, even if we know a lot about leadership.
I want to challenge you and me in this article to answer this simple question: How passionate and fully devoted am I to the vision I lead my team toward?
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I recently attended a meeting hosted by a ministry that supports an orphanage in Lebanon. This non-profit was founded by an airline pilot, a medical doctor, and a mathematics university professor—people who did not study leadership or led teams and organizations. But when they shared their story, my heart was moved. I wanted to support them, follow them, and be on their team.
They shared how when they went into an orphanage seven years ago, the stench of unsanitary conditions was worse than an animal shelter. The airline pilot said that this is why he believed his life was spared from dying on 9/11. (He flew a United airplane into New York on September 10th, 2001, one day before the horrifying 9/11 attack. Many of the pilots who died that day were his friends)
You might know people with a great head of knowledge of how to lead and even have tremendous experience and previous success. They can teach classes and know how to do vision casting, team building, organizational structuring and more, but they are unable to attract others to follow them with enthusiasm because they lost, or maybe never had, a deep conviction for what they are fighting for.
For the last third of my life I have soaked my brain with anything leadership – from books to mentors to conferences. From teaching to speaking to experiences. I see leadership applications everywhere. I recently bought a Peloton (which I highly recommend by the way). If you don’t know what Peloton is, it is a stationary cycling bike where you can join live and pre-recorded classes. One of the instructors enthusiastically said as part of the class, “I am not here to pressure you, I am here to lift you up and encourage you and see you go to the next level.” I immediately thought what a great leadership thought this is. Then I laughed at myself, that even in my Peloton exercise I see leadership. Even with this heavy consumption and intentional application of leadership principles, I often find that my leadership in some areas becomes flat.
If you can relate, allow me to share with you why I think this happens to leaders – A lack of a lifelong fervent conviction and fire in the area we lead in. The remedy? Read the below traits which are interrelated and more often than not great leaders have all three.
[You may also enjoy reading this articles: Passion: Why Is It Important to Your Leadership? ]
1—Believe wholeheartedly in your cause.
When someone has a conviction—when they speak, everyone listens and many follow. These passionate people don’t waver. We love hearing their hearts. We want to see them fired up. We long to be like them and to go with them even on long torturous journeys. In 2018 I met Gary A. Haugen – an American attorney who is the Founder and CEO of International Justice Mission, a global organization that protects the poor from violence throughout the developing world. Wow. This guy believes in his cause. He told stories. He choked up as he shared the atrocities committed against children and slaves around the world. You and I must develop that same type of conviction for our cause and vision.
2—Have a life-long devotion to your cause.
People who have spent years, often their whole adult lives, devoted to a cause make great leaders. We admire their unwavering commitment, and we follow them because of it. Is the vision you are leading people toward a passing attraction, a passion de jour, or a life-long journey you are fighting for? This last weekend I was with a formidable leader. Dr. Issam Raad has fought tirelessly, for 30 years, to build healthcare clinics in ravaged, war torn areas of the Middle East. When you listen to him speak, just the fact that he has devoted his life to this, makes you want to follow him. His commitment makes you think, if he as a respectable leader have devoted his life to it, his cause must be worthy, and worthy of my support. What are you devoting your life toward?
3—Sacrifice wholly for your cause.
Some people sacrifice so much for their cause, and we love them for it. We follow them because of it. Recently, Nike made the controversial quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, the center of their new campaign: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” While I don’t share Colin’s approach to protest, I recognize that what he did caused a whole nation to be passionately with him or passionately against him. He made an impact by risking his career and ultimately sacrificing it. Tim Tebow is another athlete who many believe sacrificed his career because of his outwardly manifestation of his faith. He is much more of a leader because of his willingness to sacrifice.
Jesus told His 12 disciplines, “Follow me,” and they did. They did not just follow Him that day, they continued to follow him even after He departed. They followed Him even to their deaths. What made them follow? While There is no denying the devine dimension, as a student of leadership I see that Jesus clearly had these three qualities described above. He had the deep conviction, the life-long devotion, and the readiness to sacrifice even to the point of enduring torture and death.
My friend, study leadership. Learn how to cast a vision. Learn how to motivate people. Learn to build teams. But do not ignore the fire inside. Don’t let it die down. Always remember that when we burn in the service of our cause, others will see the light and follow.
Take time to examine where you stand in regard to these three traits described above. I will do that as well.