The story is told that Abraham Lincoln once visited a slave auction. He did not go to buy a slave but merely to watch the proceedings. As he watched he was more convinced than before of the indignity of selling and buying a fellow human being. As a result of the experience he was overcome with rage.
In this state he observed a young woman being brought to the auction block. She was obviously difficult to manage as she rebelled against the possibility of being sold to a stranger. She probably had known this experience in the past as owners had used, abused and then disposed of her.
Lincoln did something that was out of character. He joined the bidding and he continued to raise his offers until he was awarded the sale of the slave girl. After paying the price and he strode over to where she was being held. Her defiant anger was now focused on him. To her disbelief he said, “You’re free.” She vehemently expressed her disbelief. Lincoln insisted. “You are free. You can go wherever you want and do whatever you want.” The truth of the matter was finally grasped and she said, “Well, if I am really free, than I’m going with you.”
Leaders who understand people, are able to develop people who want to follow. When a leader consistently listens intently to his people as they tell about the challenges as well as the victories in their lives he will gain a trust that would not be found otherwise. When people discover that their leader really cares a bond is established. When a leader doesn't forget the encounters he has with his people but shows his interest in practical ways his people will begin to want to help him accomplish what he feels is important.
You can pull people along like a man walking a dog who has interests in other things besides staying on the sidewalk. You can also lead people who want to follow like the farmer who takes a bucket of feed out to the cows in the pasture and leads them to another field that has a better grazing area.
I continue to be amused by the Chinese proverb that says, “He who thinks he leads and has no one following him is only taking a walk." Leaders can accomplish much more when they develop followers.