It is interesting that people will rather follow a person who they believe in but has a mediocre vision than a person who they are not sure of but who has a great vision. This is a result of the law of buy-in. According to Mike Walton, leaders need others’ buy-in to succeed in the twenty-first century. He defines ‘buy-in’ as the understanding, commitment and action in support of the leadership goals and vision. The ability to influence people’s thoughts and feelings, to generate their buy-in is a required leadership skill.
Before people will believe in your leadership vision, they first have to believe in you. You can compel people to follow you by virtue of your position, but if your leadership is solely dependent on just your position (of authority) then you will struggle to get buy-in. Some leaders believe that if they have a great vision then people will automatically follow them. This is rarely the case. People need to first believe in the vision caster before they can believe in the vision.
This is the reason why venture capitalists look beyond the business plan in front of them to the man or woman who is pitching the business plan. They need to be confident that they buy into the leadership ability of the entrepreneur because they are not only backing the business plan but the entrepreneur executing the business plan. Most business plans never go according to plan so this is where the entrepreneur(s)’ leadership ability to deal with potential disruptions is critical.
The leader is first and foremost the message before his vision. Buy-in is based on the leader’s credibility with the people. This is the reason why trust is a leadership currency. If the people don’t trust you then they will not buy into your leadership vision. John Maxwell states that “you can’t separate the leader from the cause he promotes. It can’t be done, no matter how hard you try. It is not an either/or proposition. The two always go together”. The table below illustrates people’s reactions to these two variables: