People are attracted to a cause for various reasons. Whether we like it or not, people always have reasons for choosing to spend their time following a particular cause. The reason might be based on physical, spiritual, emotional or even financial needs. It often starts as a selfish motive, but changes as time defines if their expectations are going to be met or not.
Nelson Mandela, the popular leader who fought against the apartheid in South Africa, had people drawn to the cause at first for selfish reasons. They thought fighting for such cause would be a reason for a complete power shift to the blacks. It was only during the struggle that they understood that Mandela was fighting to have a country where both the blacks and the whites would have equal rights.
This is usually the lot of most followers; they join a cause for reasons best known to them. No one becomes a true follower of a cause from inception; they need to be educated, enlightened and equipped with relevant information that will make them see beyond their selfish needs. When a crowd flocks towards a leader because of the ‘loaves of bread and fishes’ they can get, it becomes important for the leader to apply wisdom. If not, the crowd which would have been converted to faithful followers would be blown away like breath, once the leader doesn’t take the right steps. This is why you need to handle the people that come into your leadership with care.
Here are some of the steps you can take to covert the crowd following you to faithful followers:
1. Understand their unique need
Everyone one has a unique need. The need is often tied to the problem they feel will be solved by joining a cause. People’s problems generally push them to seek for solutions outside their comfort zone. This is why it is important for the leader to understand the unique need of the people around him. Although you may not be able to meet all the needs of your followers, having an understanding of what they need will define what you are expected to do. For instance, you don’t tell a hungry soldier to go to war. He will only heed your instruction when he has been fed. This is a principle that applies even in leadership.
2. Lead by example
People appreciate leaders who lead by example. Leadership is best practised by showing examples and not just the ‘do what I say’ principle. A corrupt public servant should not be surprised when he is told that his son stole a pen at school. The child must have been learning from his father’s action. The same happens in leadership, a leader who really believes in a cause lives out his belief and his followers can see it in his daily life. The hindrance to the conversion of a crowd of followers is often found in the leader himself. His cause may be sincere, his eagerness faultless and his courage risen to the point of heroism, but once he doesn’t lead by example, the people around him will leave like the wind.
3. Show compassion
Compassion is an essential ingredient of leadership. Compassion is the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it. Compassionate leaders are leaders who go out of their way to see to the wellbeing of their followers. Compassionate leaders use the following statements: “I understand you”, “I feel you” and “I want to help you.” Bill George, the widely respected former CEO of Medtronic, puts it more succinctly, calling it going from “I” to “We.” Once you show someone who comes in following your cause compassion, you say to them that their needs are important even as they follow you.
4. Guide them to the truth
One of the greatest temptations that come to a leader is the temptation to tell something less than the truth. The selfish interest of the leader can fuel this temptation. A friend of mine – a leader of great courage and virtue – recently had to stand in the front of a vast crowd and tell them that the organisation he had just been called to lead have been ineffectual for the better part of fifty years. A half century of bloated statistics had obscured the facts and no one close to the situation had dared to speak the truth for the fear of embarrassment, retribution, or even worse. It was a tough decision for him to stand in his newly elected position to let the crowd know this truth. Although they were disappointed, he won their trust and loyalty. They became his faithful followers.
Following these steps will increase your reach as a leader. Just as Collin Powell, an American statesman, said, “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems, is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”