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Vol. 9, No. 7
(626) 350-1500 Ext 102  

©2012 William A. Cohen, PhD 

Dare the Impossible – Achieve the Extraordinary.


Recent Linked Articles by Dr. Cohen not  Published  in the Journal of Leadership Applications:

Drucker’s Five Deadly Marketing Sins from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ

Do the Right Thing at the Right Time from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ

Exploiting Demographic Change in Your Organization from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ

Drucker’s Billion Dollar Reality Test  from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ

Marketing and Selling May Be Adversarial from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ

Success by Abandoning Success from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ

Doing the Right Thing is More Powerful Than You May Think from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ

Why What You Thought about Heroic Leadership is Probably Wrong from Integral Leadership Review

Uncovering Drucker’s Most Valuable Lesson from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ

Drucker to Leaders: Above All, Do No Harm from Human Resources IQ, Customer Management IQ, and Six Sigma Management IQ

Three Ways to Get Others to Willingly Follow Your Lead

© 2012  William A. Cohen, PhD  

A leader is not a leader if he or she doesn’t have followers. Yet no one follows anyone else without being motivated to do so. Look at any situation where men or women follow a leader and you will discover reasons for their doing so. Luck or unusual circumstances may play a part. But mostly it is because of definite actions that the leader takes. What must a leader do in order to motivate others to follow? Here are three principles for gaining followers.

Lead Through the Most Powerful Motivator of Human Behavior

Everyone wants to feel important, from the youngest child, to the oldest grandmother or grandfather. After basic survival, it is one of the most important of human needs. It is frequently the real reason behind both a child’s tantrum and an adult’s rudeness. A recent television special sought the reason that some children became school-ground bullies. Why do some children insist on dominating and threatening their playmates? Why do some children torment and persecute other children? Sociologists thought that bullies would be less intelligent. They thought that these would be the kids that couldn’t do well in class. In many cases, this just wasn’t true.

What they did discover was that bullies got a sense of importance by lording it over others.  As one former bully, now grown up, told television viewers: “The more I was able to make weaker kids do what I wanted, the more important I felt.”

But this same motivator can have a tremendously powerful and positive effect when applied properly by heroic leaders. Toward the end of the Civil War, General Robert E. Lee faced a force of 100,000 Union troops with only 30,000 of his own. Just as he was about to be overrun, the Texas Brigade commanded by General John Gregg showed up.  As related by Alf J. Mapp, Jr., “Lee rode up to the front of the brigade, stood in his stirrups, raised his hat from his head and boomed above the martial din, ‘Texans always move them.’ An ear-splitting yell rose from the brigade. One of Gregg’s couriers, with tears running down his cheeks , shouted, ‘I would charge hell itself for that old man!'”General Courtney Whitney was with General MacArthur for more than twenty years. When asked what made MacArthur great he replied, “He made his men feel that their contribution was an important one – that they were somebody.”

Making one feel important is frequently more powerful as a motivator than money, promotion, working conditions, or almost anything else. So you just know that we do everything possible to make others feel important. Right? Wrong. We frequently do the exact opposite. When we meet a surly clerk, we don’t think, “This person needs to feel important, and I’m going to make him or her feel that way.” Oh no, not us! We think, “How dare this person talk that way to me. I’ll show him how really unimportant he is compared with me.”

So, we play a game of one up-man-ship in rudeness. The results are perfectly predictable. We have what is sometimes referred to in the military as a “pissing contest.”  If we have more power than the other person, we will probably get our way. Our subordinate will put up with our tirade, and probably won’t argue with us. But at what cost? Analysts term this style of misleadership, “manager disrespect.”  Professor Jack Mendleson at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana wrote, “Preliminary research findings show that manager disrespect has reached an epidemic level in the U.S.” So many leaders don’t lead. They confront and dominate with manager disrespect.

When you lead with manager disrespect, you may or may not succeed. One thing however is certain. The person you disrespecting will not appreciate it. You may not be able to trust that person to follow your lead or your intentions if you aren’t around in the future. In fact, if I had to bet some money, I would bet on the exact opposite. I’m not saying that there aren’t times when you must let someone know you are dissatisfied about someone’s performance or lack of it. But don’t belittle that person’s importance so that they lose their self-respect – not if you want to lead and influence them.

Golden Rule Leadership

Both the Old and New Testaments tell us to treat others as we want to be treated ourselves. You may have thought this concept has application only in religion or the practice of ethical conduct. The truth is it also has a great deal to do with good leadership. Why? Because people do not willingly follow leaders who are unconcerned with how they are treated. Mary Kay Ash, the woman who built a billion dollar corporation while giving away pink Cadillacs to her most successful saleswomen called this her “Golden Rule System of Management.” She not only practiced it herself, but recommended it to everyone in her organization.

After all, what makes you so special? Do you think that you are so much better than others that you are to be treated differently? If you do, better change your way of thinking, or you may never get people to follow you.

Those days are gone. Many corporate leaders today have discovered that it is just good leadership to treat family issues as strategic business issues, and to give the welfare of their employee’s families a major priority. At First Tennessee National Corporation, this started with CEO Ralph Horn. Horn dumped the old work rules and let employees figure out which schedules worked best from a family viewpoint. Then, he added a host of new programs to help the families of his employees. He sent his 1000 managers to three and a half days of training to educate them and get them on board. That certainly made them feel important. Results? Productivity and customer service soared and high retention rates contributed to a 55% profit gain in two years. And these policies continue to affect Tennessee National Corporation years later. Now you should know that this company is part of a currently most unpopular industry: banking. Nevertheless, here are awards it received during the current recession: Best Employers in Tennessee, Business Tennessee Magazine; Top 50 Companies for Executive Women National Association of Female Executives; Grand Prix Award, Best Overall Investor Relations and Best Investor Relations Officer, IR Magazine.  


Look Out for the Needs of Those You Lead Before Your Own Needs


If you really want to be a Heroic Leader, put the interest of those you are privileged to lead even above your own. Time after time followers follow leaders, even otherwise pretty poor leaders because they are convinced that the leader is looking after their interests even before their own. World famous management guru Peter F. Drucker found that this very important leadership principle went thousands of years back and was practiced even in ancient times. Followers want leaders who protect their interests, not yours. Some extraordinary leaders go so far as to put the lives of those they lead ahead of their own. Few situations require you to sacrifice your own life for those you lead, but that exactly what Sergeant First Class Paul Smith did in Iraq when his men came under attack by a superior enemy force. He personally manned a machinegun fully exposed to enemy fire near Baghdad International Airport on April 4th, 2003. At the cost of his own life, he saved the lives of numerous of the wounded soldiers he commanded.


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“It is the men behind who make the man ahead.”

— Merle Crowell