“Follow Your Lead? What’s In It For Me??”

We all know the expression (where did it come from, anyway? Anybody know??) – “Let’s not go there!”

If a topic for potential discussion touches a painfully raw nerve, we’d just as soon bypass that destination. Don’t go there! Why? Because we see only pain, no gain.

To “go there,” we need a compelling WWIFM (What’s In It For Me). And it’s the same with leadership of others. People will follow a leader – if the destination looks like gain that will outweigh any anticipated pain.

I hate to go all non-idealistic on you, but my buy-in to any vision and direction is correlated to my sense, my agreement, that the goal, and the leader, are aligned with my best interests.

However skillfully we paint the picture and seek to rally support, if those that are to follow us don’t want to “go there,” we’re not going to lead them there.

Now, if know me, you know I’m an idealist. And I firmly believe that people operate best when they are involved in a cause, a mission, much bigger than themselves. But I also know that, whatever the cause – however grand and sweeping and even sacrificial it may be – the engine that will drive a group of people to follow is alignment of interests that includes a clear WIIFM.

So – how do we get others to follow our lead? Bluntly put, it’s sales – not slimy, sleazy, lying sales, but selling nonetheless. It’s selling the vision – AND selling the benefits to the customer. If you’re a leader, you’re in sales – simple as that.

What was Steve Jobs of Apple, if not a consummate salesperson? He had to sell his entire organization on his vision of supremely great user experience – and, when it was time to step down, he also had to achieve buy-in that the next leader would carry on the vision. No small task!

Take everything my LeadershipChat co-host Lisa Petrilli wrote in her prep post for our discussion this week (Leadership Advice – Getting Others to Follow Your Lead). Package together Vision, Trust, Communication, and Energy, and what do you have? Effective selling (the kind that exists with integrity).

What do you think? How do you enable others to follow you? Join us for the discussion on LeadershipChat (#LeadershipChat on Twitter) at 8 pm ET Tuesday night, November 8th as we tackle this topic. You’ll find a group of warm, smart, and motivated friends who will welcome you to our weekly chat at the leadership table!


Hire Steve Woodruff  if your identity and message need clarity (Business Identity Therapy)

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Selling You

>> Choose Your Lane

About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

7 Responses to “Follow Your Lead? What’s In It For Me??”

  1. Pingback: November Topics « Leadership Chat

  2. Leadership is selling, plain and simple.

    Everything we do is motivated by WIIFM, whether we want to accept that fact or not.

    I explained this to a group of undergraduate students who fought me tooth and nail to make the case that much of what people do they do for purely altruistic reasons. I pressed them on how it made them feel to help others, how others judged them for being so selfless, and what it meant about their identity.

    Some of them still refused to believe that they were anything but pure in their motivations, but I suggest that contribution and significance are deep human needs. This is why we need vision, mission, and meaning. Deep down, we know our life is a gift and we know we shouldn’t waste it . . . we are supposed to make a difference.

    Leaders sell hope. They sell a mission and meaning greater than oneself. Great leaders engage your spirit in a cause greater than yourself . . . even if you don’t consciously know WIIFM.


    • Anthony – I think it does take time – decades, really – for us to understand that even our best motives aren’t purely altruistic, and that self-interest as a driver is a fact of life. And that’s OK.

  3. Steve G says:

    Steve –
    Right on…the more I lead, the more I see the need to provide people with the “What’s In It For Them!” Whether it is has selfish means or not is to be determined, but at the end of the day, a leader needs to demonstrate how the end result, the vision, will benefit all parties involved. Especially in today’s environment where, we, as humans, want instant results, instant gratification – the need to show “What’s In It For Them” has become more and more imperative. Maybe its because companies are stretching everyone to their limits that people are getting so impatient with a leaders vision if it doesn’t happen soon enough…

    As @iannarino put it so eloquently, it is SALES. Maybe not in the same definition as one would sell a product or service, but a good leader needs to demonstrate value in their mission, demonstrate the benefits in their leadership, and ultimately, “close the deal” by providing a sense of loss if their team doesn’t follow the leaders vision.

    Very interesting topic – Thanks Connection Agent for putting it in front of us…


  4. I’m going to take your non-idealistic approach a little further Steve.

    I’m a mathematician and one of my favourite films is The Beautiful Mind with Russell Crow.
    There was a scene about Governing Dynamics where he proved Adam Smith’s previous theory was incorrect.

    Adam Smith’s theory was “the best result comes from everyone in the group doing what is best for themselves”, whereas Nash proved that actually “the best result comes from everyone in the group doing what is best for themselves AND the group” ( you can watch the short clip here that demonstrates the theory http://movieclips.com/gx3fc-a-beautiful-mind-movie-governing-dynamics-ignore-the-blond/ )

    So for me a leader needs to tie in with my interests yes BUT he also needs to tie in with the interests of the team also for us all to win.

    Maybe this is the difference between a leader and a great leader.

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