How to get people to follow you as a leader?

When you think of leadership several people come to mind including Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. We take for granted that these people were great leaders. They are universally well known and respected. They had a clear vision for their people. They created a compelling future. These leaders are considered as role models.

People were willing to suffer and die to follow them. Why? They believed in their leadership and their vision for the future.

Many inexperienced leaders believe that if their cause is good enough then people will follow them automatically. At the beginning of your leadership journey people don’t just follow the vision. They need to have confidence in your leadership first before they will accept your vision. People buy into the leader and then into the vision and not the other way around.

Your approach to leadership will change as you begin to understand that people need to have confidence and trust in you first.

Have you given your followers enough reasons to trust you and follow you? Have you built enough credibility?

Your vision and message is filtered through you as the messenger. You have to be a credible leader first before the message gets through to your followers.

Do people buy Nike trainers for their quality? The quality of the products is excellent. No, they buy into Roger Federer, Tiger Woods or Christiano Ronaldo. Big successful companies know this. Therefore, they pay millions of pounds to superstars to wear or show their products.

The same few actors get the best and highest paying roles in films such as Tom Cruise or the Rock because people believe in them. They promote products in their films not because they are experts in the field that they are promoted, but because they have credibility as performers.

Once people trust you then they will give you a chance to lead them.  People want to follow people they like and give them confidence that they can succeed.

It’s hard to separate the leader from the cause. They are closely linked. For example, Gandhi’s leadership is linked with non-violent civil disobedience against the British rule to free his country. People loved and respected Gandhi as a leader and followed his vision and made major sacrifices to make his vision a reality. Hence, both the leader and cause are important and inseparable.

If people don’t like the leader and don’t like the vision, then they get another leader, if they have a choice. They will not follow the leader they don’t like with a vision that they don’t like only if they are forced with the threat of punishment or if they are getting paid and dependent on the salary.

Similarly, if people don’t like the leader but like the vision, they will get another leader. This is particularly the case in sports. For example, in the UK in football everyone has the same vision to win the Premier League so if they don’t like the Manager or Coach, they sack him/her and get a new leader. They never sack the star players or the team. It’s always the leader that has to go.

If they like the leader but don’t like the vision they get a new vision. Good leaders work with their people and come up with a compelling vision that they can work towards. Or the followers adapt the vision of the leader and abandon their own vision in favour of the leader’s vision.

When the leader and the vision are inspirational then people follow the leader through thick and thin. For example, in the USA people liked John F Kennedy as a leader and his vision to put a man on the moon and so wholeheartedly followed him.

Even if people like you as a leader and they buy into your vision you must still keep developing and growing as a leader and exert greater influence. Your leadership qualities will determine how far your organisation and team go. Your success is determined by your ability to take people where they want to go and develop their full potential.


Here are some questions for you to answer so that you can get a good view of your leadership and how you can develop it to become more effective.


  • What is your vision for your leadership and the organisation?
  • What are your goals and those of the organisation?
  • Do they align?
  • Write a clear vision statement that you are willing to put all your time and effort into.
  • Make a list of key members in your team who have a significant influence, if you have a big team. If you have a small team then write down the names of all members.
  • Rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of their buy-in into you. The higher the number the greater the buy-in.
  • How can you increase your credibility with your team? Focus on ways to improve relationships.
  • How can you develop more trust by being authentic and honest?
  • Could you raise your own standards and be a better role model?
  • How can you help team members more so that they can do a better job?
  • Could you help them achieve personal goals?
  • Could you develop their skills and abilities?
  • Write a plan for each key member in terms of their future development and your role in helping them reach their full potential.

Posted by ypsociety