We instinctively are repelled by people who are self-centred or wrapped up with themselves. But at the same time when it comes to leadership and influencing others, John Maxwell’s 14th law of leadership teaches people buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. Getting that order right is so easy to miss and can have huge implications.



I wish I had understood this many years ago. For a large part of my life I have had the naive assumption that if I could present my case as clearly and compellingly as possible then success was guaranteed. Slowly, over decades, I have learnt it is much more complex than that. I have had to learn the hard way that no matter how good or even right the idea, if there is no emotional connection then there is little if no chance that the idea or proposal will move forward. The reason?

We as human beings are by nature emotional creatures. By that I mean we often tend to make decisions for emotional reasons. Its only afterwards do we then give logical explanations for our choices. For example, I have know a man of great integrity and ability over several years. However, for some reason emotionally we have never been able to connect with each other. As a result, I find myself not wanting to listen to what he has to say or to follow him. That is not just my experience. We all either give the same experience to others or receive that from others and it affects the way we respond to what we hear or is proposed to us.

I have had to learn this lesson the hard way in my own life. Having been involved at various times in both church leadership and as a doctor, I have been struck at times how little I have been able to bring about the change I have wanted. The reason once again is that I have not been able to make that emotional connection. By way of contrast I remember a colleague who had a wonderful knack of being positive and inclusive to such an extent that you positively wanted to help and support her in the work that needed to be done.

We tend to listen and respond to people who we know, like and trust. If those three attributes are there, then we much more likely to seriously take on board what is being proposed. But if we don’t know, like or trust the person then no matter how good the proposal or idea, it is highly unlikely we will move forward.

Another way of talking about this is in terms of the 3 Cs of character, competency and chemistry.
Do we believe the other person has the integrity of character that we can trust them to do what they say they will do?
Do we believe they have the ability or skills or competency to follow through on what they are proposing?
And then there is the emotional chemistry. Do we sense an emotional connection with them that makes us feel comfortable in their presence?

All this can happen on a subconscious level, but by spelling it out like this it helps us to understand the underlying dynamic going on.

The law of buy in causes people to take one of four actions.
1. People look for another leader when they do not buy into the leader or the leader’s vision.
2. People look for another leader when they do not buy into the leader but do buy into the vision.
3. People seek to change the vision when they buy into the leader but not into the vision.
4. People support the leader and the vision when they buy into both.

How does the law of buy-in apply to your life?