If you saw my last post, a humorous look at starting a movement, (if not, check out the 3 minute video under "Leadership & the Courage to Follow", it's worth your time) you may be thinking a bit about your leadership style. Perhaps you're shifting towards a better understanding of what makes followers (the critical sauce for success), well… follow! If so, here is the question that is probably uppermost in your mind: "Is there a formula for how leadership develops a strong following?"
The answer is yes! You can think about this process as you do with most things you build, step by step, layer by layer. An overarching fundamental is an understanding that is best expressed by Daniel H. Pink in his book: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, "The secret to high performance and satisfaction – at work, at school, and at home – is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world". So, here are the basics…
- Organizations don't have needs… People Have Needs. Remember to embrace your followers and recognize their needs, desires, and participation. Keep this in the back of your mind as you build your programs and campaigns and you'll find your recruitment and retention efforts to be much more productive.
- There is one leadership fundamental that has inspired organizations for thousands of years and it’s the capacity for all involved to envision a desirable picture of the future. Building Shared Vision, illuminated by Peter Senge in his book "The Fifth Discipline", is a vision that is shared by all stakeholders that creates a rallying point, which fires up the base and gets the sauce to simmering. Shared vision is what we hope to accomplish, it's how we see the world, and it's our raison d'etre. Shaping your vision is critical. In order to become followers, individuals need to relate and understand; often at a primal level and for that you need to carefully build your case.
- Understand the Need: In order to build an effective case for gathering support, you need to develop a thorough understanding of the problem. This shouldn't be based upon a hunch, or a personal opinion. It takes research into what the community perceives, what already exists in the environment, and an awareness of best practices.
- Once you have this knowledge under your belt, the next step is to: Develop an Exciting Plan, which serves to fill the need, or which solves, or alleviates the problem. But listen closely, because here is a CRITICAL COMPONENT… Your plan needs to be both easy to understand and exciting, so as to build enthusiasm and to acquire and retain interest.
- Share Your Victories: Your constituents need to know, but always keep in mind that different audiences will respond to different messages and they respond best when they are moved by powerful stories of how your work affects the lives of those you serve. Remember that a brand is what people think when they hear your name. Message consistency across many touch points and lots of it are the keys to building an effective, accurate brand. A brand that lives on in the mind of donors and constituents must be developed through years of message layering. Creating campaigns designed to inform, motivate, and educate through many touch points, from web, to collateral, to white papers, which build relationships, is essential to success.
Finally, my father often used to say: "You never know unless you ask." I never connected the dots until it was brought into focus just yesterday, while listening to an interview with former President, Bill Clinton. Essentially, he said: "People are dying to help; they just need to be asked." Click!
The key is to ask in a way that presents the community need, your vision, and your exciting plan in a way that allows each individual to see themselves as part of the solution. That means providing a rallying point, which includes a compelling and detailed rationale for how they can participate. You can't simply just talk about generalities. While a vision: "World peace", or "ending homelessness" is a fundamental goal post, simply talking about your vision without a road map, will not create excitement, or commitment.
Nurture your community with personal details that help them understand and engage and you will see your followers multiply.