How can we earn the commitment of others as leaders, and not just their compliance? Sure, if you’ve got position power, you can force people to grudgingly do your bidding. But the moment you turn your back they will stop, and maybe even work to undermine everything you pushed them to do. Compliance is temporary, commitment is long term. You may think, “I have power, I can demand they become committed!” Rather than missing the point, there are ways you can earn the commitment of others.

1. Show commitment yourself. We are all professional boss watchers, so if you want others to follow you, you have to model it. All the time, even when no one is looking.

2. Help others make sense of what you want them to do. People need to think things through and make sense out of change. If you are asking for their commitment, it will take some time for them to understand, accept the change, and then act on it.

3. Make it compelling. If you are asking for something that is inherently soulless, you are unlikely to build commitment. We are wired to want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. When you ask others to do less than what they are capable of, they give you less than what they are capable of.

4. Be likable; no one commits to a jerk. You don’t have to be perfect, but knock some of your roughest edges off.

5. Show others why they personally matter. We all want to matter—and we all want to be valued. Help others see why they matter and why they are essential. Repeat this one early and often and you will build commitment. If they aren’t essential, settle for their compliance.

6. Build their motivation and their confidence. This is classic Ken Blanchard… Commitment = Motivation + Confidence. If I’m not motivated, I’ll be grudgingly compliant. If I’m not confident, I may say all the right things and take no action. If it’s a motivation or a confidence problem, you have to provide them with the right direction and support to build their commitment.

7. “Find Something to Like About It” is not a recipe for why people should be committed. You have to have a good reason for why they should be committed. If you don’t, they won’t. See also “Because I said so,” and “Because I’m the boss, that’s why.”

8. Commit to commitment. When you launch a change, plan on how you will earn the commitment of others. Practice the above behaviors early and often. You’ll barely have to use your position power (which is best used in small doses anyway). Get used to it, and build your skills in earning commitment. Over time, it will grow easier and you will be able to tackle bigger and better things with a group of amazing people who will follow you.



Tom Epperson

Tom Epperson

Dr. Tom Epperson is the President of InnerWill, and an instructor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Executive MBA program. Tom is a certified business coach and has a Doctorate in Leadership from The George Washington University. Tom works with clients on cultural transformation, leadership development, executive coaching, and igniting individual and organizational potential. Previously, Tom served as the HR Director for Luck Companies, and played a significant role as one of the architects of Luck Companies’ cultural transformation.

close slider

    Subscribe to the InnerWill email for inspirational stories and tips on how to build engagement, trust, and success at work and beyond – delivered right to your inbox every Monday morning!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.