By April 13, 2010 Read More →

Your First Follower Is The Key To Effective Leadership

The first follower: it’s the most under-appreciated component of effective leadership.

Check out this brilliant presentation given in February at TED in 2013 which proves the point.

Derek Sivers shows that when thinking about social movements, we often assume that it’s the leader who is most important. In fact, it’s the first follower who deserves our attention.

What we see is a sunny afternoon with young people hanging out in a park. Suddenly one you man starts dancing. Flailing about, really.

We’ll learn shortly that he is about to be the leader of a moment. But at this point he’s just a “lone nut.” And Stivers rightly points out that a leader “needs the guts to stand out and be ridiculed.”

But he also notes that what what the leader is doing is easy for someone to follow. And rather quickly another young man joins the leader. He too starts flailing about wildly.

Equally important for the budding movement is the leader’s embracing of the first follower as an equal.  Now it’s not about the leader, but about the two of them.

As Stivers says:  “The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into leader.”

The First Follower Shows Others How To Follow

The first follower then signals to others friends to join in. He now has become a leader himself.

And key to the whole moment.  “New followers emulate the first follower, not the leader.”

Soon thereafter there’s a second follower, and now we have the beginning of a movement. Now there’s three people, and that’s a crowd.

Not surprisingly more begin to join in, reaching a critical mass which sends an important signal to those who are still on the sidelines: join us now or be left out.

It’s now riskier to stand apart from the movement than to take part.

And in less than a minute almost all of the people hanging out are now enthusiastic members.

The key takeaway here is that if you intend to lead, the key is getting your first follower. You need to make it easy for her to follow. And you need to treat her as an equal.

As Stivers’ amazing video demonstrate, after that everything seems to happen all by itself.

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