Why should anyone follow you?
Stated simply, leaders have followers. Put negatively, if you don’t have followers you’re not leading. Here’s the big question, why are people following you?
know why others follow.
- What value are you bringing to followers? In other words, what do they receive from giving you their allegiance? Consider things like new skills and a sense of purpose. Leadership may begin with you but it always transitions to value derived by them.
- What qualities do you have that inspire followers? For example, your confident outlook or expressions of gratitude lift and invite people to follow you. Collins in, Good to Great, suggests humility draws followers. Or, is it dynamic charisma? Do people look at you like a father, mother, or brother? On the other hand, are you the powerful captain of the ship?
- What competencies do you have that draw followers? People enjoy following a leader with presence and ability. Our CEO is a gifted strategist. Our manager knows how to enhance efficiency. Know and play to your strengths.
- What direction do you have that makes others want to follow? The past is like a magnet to many. Leaders don’t let the past determine the future. Articulating and pursuing clear, relevant, and meaningful vision creates alignment and allegiance.
I’ve asked leaders to describe why others follow them. It’s not unusual for them to hum and haw. Perhaps it’s false humility. In other cases, they don’t know. In either case, successful leadership is seldom an accident.
I believe you’ll reach higher and go farther if you know why there’s a constituency gathering around you.
Why do you think people follow a leader?
More importantly, why do people follow you?
If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy: Why do people follow? It contains a list of resources focused on followership.
Very interesting post. I just had this conversation with some of my people yesterday. I didn’t ask them directly this question, they offered it up due to another conversation we were having. They told me that they liked that I was direct and clear, that they knew where I stood on things. I’ve also been told by my people that they like the fact that they know I have their back and will protect them. It is flattering to hear these things from the people that I serve. I’m not one who likes to talk about my accomplishments or toot my own horn. You make a good point though that it is necessary to understand your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Thank you for this thought provoking post.
Your comment smacks of reality and value.
How many times have weak leaders that can’t make up their minds demoralized “the troops.”
Wonderful lessons coming right from the heart.
Just noticed how you say “my people.” I’d say humility goes a long way. Try it.
Dan is right, it was really a thoughtful comment best on reality
Dan, couldn’t agree more. This is akin to understanding your strengths and how to leverage them based on what individuals, teams, and organizations need. Some of those strengths are likely to be why people follow you.
I’m thankful you left your comment today. First, it feels good to read your agreement. Second, you are right, some of our strengths are why people follow us.
I wonder what role weaknesses plays in the leader/follower dynamic. Perhaps our weaknesses reveal our humanity and that can be attractive also.
I agree Dan. Whether it is termed weakness or opportunities yet to learn or vulnerability, it engenders in most people an urge (or emotion) that wants to reach out, connect and help. Helps keep those leaders off those lofty pedestals too!
Good questions, Dan; you’ve drilled down to the heart of leadership here. After all, if no one is following you, you’re not leading—you’re just taking a walk!
I like the 4 dimensions you’ve described above. One way I draw followers is with my ability to see the big picture. On the other hand, I need constant help managing the details!
I think it’s also helpful to ask, “Why are people not following me?” I explored 7 possible reasons here: http://geoffreywebb.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/7-reasons-why-no-one-is-following-you/
Thanks for your work, Dan!
Delighted to see you. I bet you can do more than “see” the big picture. I bet you can communicate in ways that connect with your community. Just sayin’.
Always glad when you leave a link to your work that adds value to the conversation.
Best to you,
Great food for thought. Well done! JB
A good word is an encouragement. thank you sir.
Be on a mission
Say “thank you”
Walk your talk
Be intolerant of others’ self-destruction
I see a leadership post in your future.
I’m saving this one. Love it.
I think people follow leaders when they feel connected more with their purposes. They get encouragement and power to meet their goals. Leaders provide followers energy, enthusiasm and empowerment everytime they meet. And this make follower to follow leaders. Actually follower do not follow leaders, they follow their dreams and desire through their determination, dedication and devotion that is given by leaders.
It is a choice of people why do they follow you. If they see or can make any positive difference to thier lives through your efforts, they will follow you otherwise not. So, leadership is about followers. Others first and leader second. The other reason why people should follow you because of your character. If you have strong character and person of integrity, people will follow you. But, if your interest is first than follower, then they will not follow you.
Darn it! I wish I had said, “Actually follower do not follow leaders, they follow their dreams and desire …” Clear and powerful… and true.
I think we’d go so much further as leaders if we saw our role as creating alignment between shared dreams.
Thanks for enriching the conversation.
Best to you,
Ajay is a featured contributor on Leadership Freak. Read his bio at http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/ajay-gupta
Ajay-Good crisp thoughts. Leaders have a definite vision and the clear -direction to achieve. They get the followers once they share their vision with others and enlighten them with the final outcome which will be beneficial to all. The followers look at the leaders as their inspiration source. It is the faith that drives people to get linked to real leaders with a sole aim of achieving something worthwhile.
It’s good to learn on the relevance and importance of character in the leadership role. It’s an essential quality to earn good respect from the group of people who will support and help execute the plan of action.
Ajay’s point about it is a choice to follow rings true throughout the posts today…so maybe its more about the followers than the leaders!
Great post, Dan – like your others.
I learned that people follow me for many reasons, some of which have to do with me and some of which have to do with them. My ability to engage people is one core reason – engage their minds, their imaginations, their attention, their sense of humor, their desire to make a difference, their hearts.
A tool I used to great effect is active listening – emphasis on listening. And then I could weave together many strands to create a vision that inspired people to believe they were fully part of making it happen. It was a lot of fun to be that kind of leader! As a coach, I now teach clients how to do that (and I blogged about it at http://myrightfitjob.com/2011/01/27/great-leaders-use-active-listening/).
Thanks for this great reminder of why leadership is so much fun, and for your pithy, on-target post.
Engage is a great word. Successful leaders engage followers. You really said a mouthful.
Thanks for adding active listening to reasons people follow and for leaving a link to your own work.
Glad you added value.
Interesting post Dan. Another great job. I agree with you that it is followers that define the role of ‘leader’. In the work place, people may work for you because they have to. We rise to leadership when they follow us because they choose to. People look for different qualities or promises from their leaders at different times. When they see those qualities in me and choose to join me on their journey, it is both a blessing AND a responsibility. If we are who we are and do what we say, those who value the same things will join us.
You packed tons into a short comment and in so doing you enrich others. Thank you.
Love – we rise to leadership when others choose to follow us. Such a powerful and challenging idea.
Thanks for all you give back to the community. You’re helping me succeed.
To me, there are some parallels between how I choose a leader (when I have a choice) and how I choose a business to patronize. If I know that business owner has given back to the community and has conducted him or herself with integrity, they are more likely to get my business. I suppose in the case of choosing a leader that boils down to someone who is generous even when there is not profit involved and someone who has integrity.
For “why do people follow you?” that’s an interesting question and it’ll be interesting to see how people respond. There are so many terms right now for our relationships, both “in person” and via social media – Out of my 1208 Facebook “friends,” there are only about two people I could call in the middle of the night to discuss a crisis. There are Twitter “followers” who want to help me make a million bucks NOW or be their partner in curing a disease (the million bucks isn’t likely to happen but I love to support causes such as curing cancer). Do my tweets influence many of them one way or another? I’m not sure. My Klout score interested me but I’m not sure how reliable it is – Klout thinks I am an expert on toilet paper because I participated in a twitter party for White Cloud TP – ONCE – whereas I talk leadership, running, family, and reading every single day. I hope when all is said and done, people who “follow, friend or otherwise reach out to me” walk away having gained something to think about that makes their lives better, lived more insightfully, and helps them somehow appreciate each moment.
Dan Perez’s blog about the “Klout Myth” is great food for thought: http://southfloridafilmmaker.com/the-klout-myth-and-living-above-the-influence
I can confirm for you that I get a lot out of your comments when you post here and elsewhere. I will say this – I follow you because your humanity shines through.
Same goes for Dan <:0)
Thank you, Alan.
I’m writing about leaders and their relationship with their team this week so this almost feels like another chapter of what’s going through my head right now.
If a leader is placed in a position of leadership, that’s nice. But they need to earn the respect of the followers. Just because your position puts you in a position over others, that doesn’t mean they are going to follow.
Relationships need to be built through mutual respect and understanding. The team needs to understand who you are and where you want to take them. They need to buy in to your vision. It can take time.
The leader needs to be prepared and that preparation starts with knowing themselves. Knowing what they are very good at and where they have short comings.
Dan, another WINNER! It is a good question for any leader to ask and more important is know the answer else you could end up on the road by yourself. Where I am still trying to answer the question for myself is with Social Media. Take you as an example. I follow your Blog as I like the perspective you come with and have agreed on most of your points of view and disagreed on some (literally a few as I can’t think of them). I do like your outlook, passion and dedication (it can’t be easy coming up with good material daily to post, so Remarkable stuff by my standards). This leads to me taking note when you Broadcast on twitter ,for example you from nowhere said follow @beckyrbnsn and I did and I was not disappointed. In fact she has been a great connection that became real. So the perspective you give people will result in people following you (or not)! I know why I am following you, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why some people follow me who seem to not fit the mould to where I am positioned or what I say! Interestingly enough, leading and working with people that believe in what you are doing is what inspired my post http://fit4thabo.blogspot.com/2011/01/are-you-selling-to-your-people.html
Why do you think people follow a leader?
I believe people follow a leader because they have a sense of connection to the person, especially, if that person has expressed his or her “Why” for leading. People don’t follow leaders because they are their boss, they follow because they believe in the leader’s passion and values.
More importantly, why do people follow you?
Russ Ackoff once told me after working together for several months on a change project that he felt people followed me because I was willing to take them places they had never been. At the time, my boss was promoting a theme of “thinking outside the box” in order to stimulate innovation. Several weeks after Russ’ comment, during my annual review, my boss and I discussed his new initiative and he concluded that their are those inside the box, those outside the box and then their is you – a person who has never allowed a box to confine his thinking.
BTW Dan, not that you need another book to read, but a great book on followership was written by Robert E. Kelley in 1992 entitled “The Power of Followership – How to Create Leaders People Want to Follow and Followers Who Lead Themselves.” Terrific read.
Thanks Jim, It may be time to have another “book’s I recommend” post.
To stay with your graphic at the top, why do geese follow? Other than habit…
-The leader honks well (always a good start, but the leader has to back up the honk by solid action)
-Everyone knows it is a group effort that makes the going easier
-They appreciate the leader cutting the resistance down
-Everyone knows at some time it will be their responsibility to lead too
-On some core level there is consensus that the leader is on the right path (although I have seen V formation geese breakaway and redirect the entire group too–lots more honks involved)
-As far as the other geese honking, that is open to interpretation…
whether encouragement(?) or continuous performance improvement feedback or some who are questioning the direction, pace, altitude or whether they need a Marshbucks break, who knows…
-Even the lead goose does have to listen and respond.
Doc, I have large flock of Canadian Goose that roost every evening in the pond behind the house and I have seen the honking and the forming of different squadrons from time to time. I have also seen the captain from each squadron spar off by running on top of the water wings flapping and then crashing into each other. This goes on until one of them capitulates and flies off. I have seen managers behave that way sometimes although fortunately not often. Seems a bit coercive to me and I would suggest less honking, and more flying to win folks over. If I was a young geese looking for leadership I would be more impressed by graceful maneuvering and aerial acrobatics than just a lot “wind and noise!” Maybe I will change the slogan on my email to “Come fly with me” 🙂 Just a thought, Al
Hi Dan ,
I do not agree to your point about leaders creating value to the followers,I am team member in a small team in my organization ,but more people connect to me then any other position based leaders in my organization and offcourse I do not bring any tangible value to them or niether I am in a position to bring any value for them.
I rather believe in statement by Julia Erickson…
“My ability to engage people is one core reason – engage their minds, their imaginations, their attention, their sense of humor, their desire to make a difference, their hearts. ”
Anyway I really admire your capability of writing inspiring thoughts about leadership in less than 300 words.
Your view points are bit conflicting in nature probably based on your limited experience. The highlighted things quoting Julia Erickson are nothing but value which inspire them to support you based on your qualities and the spark that see in you. ‘Value’ need not to be seen only from monetary terms or tangible benefits. It could be the intangible gains to keep them satisfied and inspired.
Good leaders will always have a great impact on the fellow colleagues, subordinates and all those who chase a common goal. This will certainly bring the desired fruits for everyone to share and enjoy.
There is more to the intangibles than we can see!
Whoa…Doc, you coined one there. KaChing!
Engaging and influencing people to follow their dreams is nothing but leadership. So, Dan is right. Perhaps, you are leader but unware about what the leader is.
Knowing why anyone should follow you, or why anyone already does, isn’t an easy feat. I believe that not knowing it doesn’t necessarily make you a bad leader, as well. Sometimes people follow you for reasons that might go beyond things you are aware of, natural leaders exist and I have seen examples of that in my life, business and not.
Hi Dan, great post and comments. I believe we need to define what is a follower before we tackle the question as to why people follow you or not and why people in general will follow others. True followers first and foremost follow a “Leader first and a vision second.” The Track history of the leader for sure makes people comfortable with getting on the bus especially when the destination is where you were either wanting to go in the first place or were made to understand why it should have been all along.
Past history, performance, and outcomes will urge me to come knock on your door. Walking in will hinge on trust, credibility, and very importantly attitude. Staying in requires feeling safe, wanted, appreciated and valued.
Never wanting to leave will occur when my contributions are not only allowed but sought out ultimately resulting in a passionate and innate desire, a necessity if you will, to perform at my best and being at the top of my game will shower me with happiness, the secret sauce that compels us all to come back for more, and more, and more.
This is my recipe for seeking engagement with a leader and one which I personally review and revise almost daily in the hope of keeping my message fresh, and inviting and attractive to my followers. The part of the concoction where most leaders fail is when we ignore the mental expression and obstruct the follower’s path to self-mastery.
Endurance as a follower succeeds only when the leader can watch from behind, learn something in the process, and with humility recognize and accept the fulfillment of his student. “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” (David Rockefeller). Peace, Al
Bet you thought you had gotten the last word in Al…great follow up comments.
Am still percolating on true followers follow a leader first and a vision second. I think sometimes, on several levels, followers are looking for a new vision, a new way and know that change must happen, but the catalyst, a new leader is not present or does not emerge from the group. Those are dark times. I do agree that much of the time the effective leader is needed to help others clearly see the vision, so leader first there.
Your observation in the third paragraph about what makes a person never want to leave could be a whole separate thread. Very rich comments! The key is being ‘sought out’ or a leader saying… “for this project, I need you,” and all of the positives that you note delightfully align. Those are times of light.
Such a simple yet important question. Every leader — especially the ones who believe in a laissez-faire style — benefit from digging into this question.
Perhaps because of the work I do, I see many leaders confusing empowerment for completely hands off leadership. Then they ask me why things are floundering.
Your question helps them rediscover what leadership is about.
Such a great post Dan! Keep inspiring us and challenging us to become greater on every level. Always a pleasure to read your stuff. This is one of you top 10.
This is spot on. I discovered your blog and find this one in particular resonated with me. We certainly need to give our staff every reason to follow us–and not something else, for don’t we all want to follow something? It might as well be the leader!
Dave, thanks for leaving your first comment. Cheers
They follow me because they can relate to me. Because I don’t pretend to be what I’m not and I share my life and daily struggles with them while also encouraging. It’s nice that some seem to have it totally together but I think the majority of us are still figuring it out. And I think also because I dig into topics that other Christians want to pretend don’t exist.
Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God
yeah, i just don’t really think it’s positive to follow anybody?