When you boil down to it, almost all theories of leadership start with a single question: “How can I get people to willingly follow me?”

Perhaps you have found yourself asking this very question as you watch others around you who hold leadership positions. Maybe you are waiting to unlock your own leadership potential or are finding your leadership influence slipping.

When we consider great leaders, the challenge is trying to understand who these people are, who they project themselves to be and how they act to become great leaders. In history, there are many examples of extraordinary leaders, whose lives we still discuss, find inspiration in and have admiration for because of their role in helping to map out the world we live in today. Napoleon Bonaparte, Queen Elizabeth 1st, and Gandhi are three noteworthy examples, all of whom lived centuries apart, but all managed to find their leadership feet and stand tall enough to evoke change, resulting in awe-inspired followers who would follow, in some cases, to their death.

Take Napoleon, a French military leader who rose to power after the French Revolution. He was cunning and shrewd, knowing that bigger numbers did not always mean bigger strength. His leadership influence was demonstrated in the way he was able to convince not just one person, but thousands that his armies could triumph over the much larger armies of the enemy. His conviction, backed by his numerous victories, meant his military leadership grew. His rule and influence expanded across France as he became widely acknowledged for his regard for the common man and, of course, his military might.

Running into battle, towards an infinitely larger army could be considered a hard sell but to those who hold influence, it’s amazing what their dedicated followers are willing to do to accomplish their leader’s goals and vision.

Now I’m not saying you should see if your followers will willingly run into battle with you. It does, however, bring up the interesting follow-up leadership question: “How far are your followers willing to go to achieve your goal(s)?”

Influence is a funny thing; people won’t become brainwashed because we all possess this great little thing called ‘free-will.’ People crave meaning and purpose. They look for those who see potential in their vision and their followers. Blind faith is neither a leadership tactic nor theory. People respond to those who possess:

  • Character – People notice those who do what is right over what is easy.
  • Clarity – People trust the clear and mistrust the ambiguous.
  • Commitment – People believe in those who stand despite adversity.
  • Compassion – People acknowledge and aspire to be those who care beyond themselves.
  • Competency – People have confidence in those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable.
  • Connection – People want to follow, be around, and buy from those they trust i.e. friends.
  • Contribution – People immediately respond to results, they want to see their efforts lead to better things.

Do you have a plan for the future of your leadership? What will be your lasting legacy?

“He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat.” – Napoleon

Originally posted on LinkedIn