#14 THE LAW OF BUY IN: People Buy Into the Leader, Then the Vision

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“When I teach leadership seminars, I field a lot of questions about vision. Invariably someone will come up to me during a break, give me a brief description of an evolving vision, and ask me “Do you think my people will buy into my vision? “ My response is always the same: “ First tell me this. Do your people buy into you?”—John Maxwell

Many people who approach the area of vision in leadership have it all backwards.

They believe that if the cause is good enough, people will automatically buy into it and follow. But that’s not how leadership really works. People don’t at first follow worthy causes. They follow worthy leaders who promote worthwhile causes. People buy into the leader first, then the leaders vision. Having an understanding of that changes your whole approach to leading people.

For the person who attends conferences and asks whether his people will follow, the question really becomes “Have I given my people reasons to buy into me?” If your answer is yes, they will gladly buy into your vision. But if you have not built that credibility with your people, it really doesn’t matter how great your vision is.

YOU ARE THE MESSAGE

Every message that people receive is filtered through the messenger who delivers it. If you consider the messenger to be credible, then you believe the message has value.

Maxwell explains that the reasons actors and athletes are hired as promoters of products is because they have established credibility. People buy Nike shoes because they have bought into Michael Jordan, not necessarily because of the quality of the shoes. The same is true when actors promote causes.

Once people have bought into someone, they are willing to give his vision a chance. People want to go along with people they get along with.

IT’S NOT AN EITHER/ OR PROPOSITION

You cannot separate the leader from the cause he promotes. It cannot be done. It’s not an either/ or proposition. The two always go together. Here’s a table that shows how people react to a leader and his vision under different circumstances

LEADER                                 VISION                       RESULT

Don’t Buy in                           Don’t Buy in               Get Another Leader

Don’t Buy In                           Buy In                         Get Another Leader

Buy In                                     Don’t Buy In               Get Another Vision

Buy In                                     Buy In                         Get Behind the Leader

Here are different scenarios of how followers react:

WHEN FOLLOWERS DON’T LIKE THE LEADER OR THE VISION, THEY LOOK FOR ANOTHER LEADER

It’s easy to understand the reaction of people when they don’t like the leader or the vision. They don’t follow, but they also do something else. They start looking for another leader. It’s a no-win situation

WHEN FOLLOWERS DON’T LIKE THE LEADER, BUT THEY DO LIKE THE VISION, THEY STILL LOOK FOR ANOTHER LEADER

Even though people may think a cause is good, if they don’t like the leader, they will go out and find another.

WHEN FOLLOWERS LIKE THE LEADER BUT NOT THE VISION, THEY CHANGE THE VISION

Even when people don’t like a leader’s vision, if they’ve already bough into him, they will keep following him. When followers don’t agree with their leader’s vision, they react in many ways. Sometimes they work to convince their leader to change his vision. Sometimes they abandon their point of view and adopt his. Other times they find a compromise. But as long as they still buy into the leader, they wont opt-out and reject him. They will keep following.

WHEN FOLLOWERS LIKE THE LEADER AND THE VISION, THEY WILL GE BEHIND BOTH

They will follow their leader no matter how bad conditions get or how much the odds are stacked against them. That’s what inspired the U.S. space program to fulfill John F. Kennedy’s vision and put a man on the moon. That’s the reason people continue to have hope and keep alive the dream of Martin Luther King Jr., even after he was gunned down.

As a leader, having a great vision and a worthy cause is not enough to get people to follow you. First you have to become a better leader; you must get your people to buy into you. That’s the price you have to pay if you want your vision to have a chance of becoming a reality.  

To get people on board doesn’t have to be aggressive. Some of us feel we have a right to impose our ideas, hopes and dreams on people, but you will find it extremely frustrating if that’s your approach.

It’s never too late to adjust and get better at what you do. So today, work hard to build credibility, forge relationships with as many people as you can, be patient and soon, you’ll not only be a better leader, but a leader with a vision that’s worth pursuing.

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