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  • Caissa Public Strategy

How to Build a Cult Following for Your Business

In 1997, there was a cult called Heaven’s Gate that believed the Haley Bopp Comet was going to destroy the Earth, and the only way to escape it was to leave their “vehicle” (aka body) and transcend onto a spaceship. To do this, they rented a house in San Diego one night, took sleeping pills, placed bags over their heads, and all committed suicide.

Now, what in the world would make someone WANT to do this? The answer is simple: They were under a spell. Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles had brainwashed these people to believe that this was very real and convinced them it was okay to kill themselves, as if it was the only way to achieve their destiny. The news called them cult “leaders,” so I started wondering what it takes to really be a leader. Here’s what I found.

A leader has followers—it’s as simple as that. The question isn’t if you are a leader, but it’s what kind of leader are you?

I’m not going to bore you with all of the different types of leaders, but there are two that stood out to me: positional and permissive. In a positional leadership role, people follow you because they have to, whereas permissive leaders are those who people choose to follow. We all want people to WANT to follow us. The question is how do we learn from cult leaders and build a cult following in our business to become permissive leaders?

The traits to forming a cult and following a leader are very similar. You have to create followers that want to follow you. To do so, you have to follow these three steps:

Create your own reality.

Stop worrying so much about the bad apples in your group and start focusing your efforts more on the ones you know are doing well. The biggest issue in some companies is low moral due to poor performers. Spend more of your time working with the ones you know will be around for 5, 10, or 20 years. By doing this, you’ll build a stronger team that will want to continue learning from you and gaining your trust.

Practice great communication.

When you don’t communicate with your team, it makes the minds wonder about what is going on. People do not naturally assume positive intent. For example, if someone starts a rumor about layoffs, people immediately start worrying they may lose their job. If you are not communicating with your team, their minds are going to immediately go to dark places thinking they are the ones that are going to get laid off. Communicate, communicate, and communicate again. Make sure you are filling in all gaps of information and your peers will always feel comfortable with you leading them.

Keep Them Fixated on the Prize.

Make sure your team is fixated on the end goal and share your vision with them. Show them how you value what they are doing and why it is necessary. People work for money and something else. Mentor your team and help them to find that something else. By mentoring them and taking them under your wing, it shows them you care about their future and that they are important. A person who feels needed will not stray from their leader.

Building a cult following in your business takes time, but if you use these steps, you’re bound to transition from a positional leader to a permissive leader in no time.

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