In a society where people first and foremost think about themselves and their own interests it’s not always as easy to get people to work for your cause. Of course monetary incentives work to some degree, but there are better ways to establish partnerships which are much more effective. It is the mark of a good leader that he can inspire the people around him.
It’s been proven that money is not the driving force behind the ambition of people. In fact some of the most interesting creations that mankind has produced are not functions of greed, but rather from a sense of purpose and meaning. It is us who give purpose and meaning to our creations and therefore it is us who have the power to inspire others to create things that inbibe those very qualities. When you can give other people a sense of purpose they will create wonders for you.
I’m not religious, but when I see a cathedral I cannot help but to stand in awe as I wonder how much time and effort has been put into creating something so beautiful. There are buildings which took hundreds of years to finish, which means that various generations had been working on them. The reason why those kind of buildings even exist is because the people who made it had a very strong sense of purpose and meaning. It gave them the power to rise above themselves by contributing to something that is bigger than their lives.
Now I’m not saying that you should start your own religion and convince people to build a structure in the name of God, but the point is that people will deliver a better product for you when you can involve them in the idea that is behind it. It is for this reason that powerful ideas are the strongest force in the minds of men and understanding that is one of the most important lessons in order to become a successful leader. Every great leader in history has had a great vision that inspired those who followed him.
There are no right or wrong ideas, only weak and strong ones. We see that in history people have fought each other over disagreements regarding ideas and obviously the strongest ideas survived, because they were supported and defended by many. Think of the idea of liberty for example that has never failed to move people because it’s one of the most powerful ideas. Unfortunately ideas can also be used as a means of manipulation to get people to support something outside of their own interest. Good examples are the numorous wars that the USA fights in the name of liberty and democracy even when that’s obviously not the case.
What I’m trying to say is that an idea needs to be strong, but it also needs to be communicated properly in order to be supported. We attach ourselves to ideas when we’re able to identify with that idea. When an idea is part of our identity it becomes one of the driving forces in our lives. People desire a sense of identity and by belonging to something bigger than ourselves we feel more powerful. In order to spread an idea we have to become the idea itself. They call it being an example or walking the talk.
When a leader can inspire his followers to become part of his idea then they’ll become leaders themselves. This is why strong ideas will live on even when the people who created them passed away. Ideas which appeal to the spirit of the current time are always strong, because they resonate very well with the collective mind. Creating an idea therefore is not as hard as it seems if you can manage to tap in to this collective mind. It doesn’t even have to be a new idea, but it can also be an old idea displayed in a modern fashion.
One of the most important factors in communicating an idea successfully is how it is displayed; being an example is not enough. People have a weak spot for spectacles and mystery and both should be used to create a large movement. In one of my posts (How The Human Psyche Works) I wrote about the power of secrets, because whatever is not spoken out loud creates an aura that is much stronger than words. The same counts for ideas; an idea should be expressed in every way, but it shouldn’t be spoken out loud. Giving away the secret means no more mystery, which is a turn off.
It is the sense of mystery that will draw people closer and every expression of the idea is spectacular. At the same time you give them purpose and meaning. I’ve seen first hand how mysterious organizations have multiple layers of followers. The ones who were the closest with the organization were told the most important ‘secrets’. Secrery inspires loyalty and turns men into kids who will take anything they’re given. I’m not saying this is the right thing to do, but in this particular organization it worked for whatever reason was behind it.
I would say that the most important thing to learn is to recognize the elements that make a movement strong and powerful. It’s not about what they do, but how they do it. In that sense a strong movement definitely has some of the charactaristics that we see in religious organizations. That’s not because it has anything to do with religion, but those guys just figured that out way back. A definite important factor is that it needs to appeal to the desire of people to believe in something which is bigger than themselves in order to be part of it and create a sense of purpose and meaning.
Like I said before it doesn’t matter as much what you do, but it’s much more important how you do it. You don’t have to form a religion in order to create a religious kind of following. The idea is what creates the powerful aura and its presentation is the key in order to inspire people to become part of it. Mystery draws people in, but a leader who appears like he’s a mystery to himself is not a good thing; a good leader knows exactly what he’s doing and even if he doesn’t it should appear as if he does.
People have to feel that they can count on their leader; they need to be able to trust him. Trust can be gained simply by showing understanding towards others. It’s the distance between people that creates distrust and makes one see another as a stranger. A good leader can make an intimate connection with another person instantly on the first eye contact. Trust is a strong bond and is hard to break, because it’s part of people’s sense of identity. This is what I mean with showing understanding; letting someone know that you understand who that person is. People adore that, because often they don’t even know themselves that well.
Finally I would like to say that being a leader doesn’t mean you have to have followers. On the contrary, leadership starts by taking charge of yourself. If your ideas are strong enough people are bound to follow you to help advance the idea even further. One trap is the ego, because that should never be part of the idea. You have to realize yourself that the idea is more important than you and that you’re simply the bearer of it; a tool of the universe so it can spread and create a larger movement.
Those who like to be followed in order to feel better about themselves are not going to be followed. Weak ideas perish in the presence of stronger ones. In order to be a good leader you have to become the biggest follower of your own idea.