Make Your Number One – Number Two

driving from the backseat

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“How do you get people to pull you, rather than you pushing them?” The question came from a leader in South Africa on a recent Skype call.

Don’t waste your leadership influence getting people excited about things you’re excited about…

Go with their excitement.

Motivating the unmotivated is frustrating, exhausting, and wasteful.

Essential agreement:

Agree on organizational mission/vision first. Does everyone want to feed the hungry, sell widgets, or develop leaders, for example?

Disagreement on mission ends shared motivation.

Stop pushing:

Successful leaders, it’s true, generate enthusiasm in others. But, self-centered leaders push their own passions.

Stop pushing those who already buy-in!

Follow their enthusiasm, don’t push yours.

Get excited about things that excite them. Fuel excitement by going with, not against.


A young leader recently said, “When you start talking about developing leaders, I lose enthusiasm. I’m concerned about community impact.”

In the past, I would have worked to convince him that leadership development is the number one thing. What a demotivating waste of leadership influence. Suppose I succeed? I’ll have to keep convincing him. Ugh! Who cares as long as we’re all pulling in the same direction.

Real influence: Connect leadership development with community impact.

Align your number one with their number one.

Two question connection:

They’ll pull you to a shared destination, if you hitch your wagon to theirs. His number one thing, for example, was community impact. Ask two questions.

How would you like to impact the community? (Go with their number one thing, not against.)

What training is needed to help them impact the community? (KaChing! Leadership development, my number one thing.)

Successful leaders get excited about things
that excite others.

Why should they get excited about your thing when you’re not excited about theirs?

Backseat leadership:

Let your number one thing sit in someone else’s backseat. Let someone else drive. Make your number one – number two.

How can leaders get excited about what excites others?