On Leadership and The Politics of Onions

The Politics of Onions

There’s an interesting dynamic taking place in India right now. It’s a lesson about creating political change, but it also offers a great insight into how to be more effective as a leader and/or a marketer.

Indian politicians have been battling one another as to how to reverse the country’s declining economy, but no consensus has been reached. (Sound familiar?) However, the weakened economy has taken an interesting twist.

It’s driven the price of onions up dramatically – nearly 5-fold in a month!

On Onions and Culture

While this may not seem like a major event to many of us, in India, it’s catastrophic. Indian families of all social strata eat onions in or with just about every meal. An increasing portion of the population cannot afford to buy onions, and therein lies the interesting dynamic.

As we all know, politicians tend to argue for solutions which favor their own agenda or the agenda of their party. But a groundswell of public protest and discontent is about to change all that. It will change the politics because unhappy constituents tend not to re-elect politicians.

Appreciating the impact of this dynamic can give us an insight into how to be more effective in our leadership and in our marketing.

Motivation is Personal

If you want to motivate people to take action, you must address something that matters to them. Whether we’re talking about politicians, members of our team, or potential customers, people tend to act in their self-interest.

When it comes to leadership, if you want to motivate people to take action, you must appeal to something that matters to them. Setting goals does not motivate most people. Yes, some love the challenge , but many are not motivated by goals.

And, as you’ve probably observed, most people aren’t motivated by more money, either.

What’s In It For Me?

Study after study has demonstrated that more money is pretty low on the list of things that are important to people.

Instead, people appreciate things like:

  • Getting respect
  • Having autonomy
  • Gaining recognition
  • Being Appreciated
  • Having a purpose
  • Taking pride in their work
  • Work/life balance

When it comes to marketing, that old acronym comes to mind – WIIFM – “What’s in it for me?” Prospects are not moved to action by logic – they are moved to action by emotion.

In your marketing, if you can appeal to what matters to them (the benefits) rather than how great you and your products are (the features), you’ll have far more success getting people to take action.

Whether it’s politics, leadership, or marketing, if you want people to act on your behalf, you must give them what they want – what matters to them.

So, as a leader, are you considering what “the onions” are to your team members? Are you looking to their personal, professional, and social aspirations as you lead them? How can you recalibrate your thinking to become more influential with the people that you lead? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Michael Beck
Michael J. Beck is President of Michael Beck International, Inc
He helps leaders improve their personal effectiveness and productivity
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L2L Contributing Author

1 Comment

  1. Dave Mohn on September 12, 2013 at 8:35 am

    To over come the WIIFM the only “onions” to offer are encouragement (good performance), conversation (relationship) and support at work (IT, pens, paper, uniform, etc).