Seven reasons people might follow you

There is a great deal written about leadership on LinkedIn and much of this by people who have studied it and written books on it.

I’m out of my depth there, so let me stick to something I’m more familiar with: “followership”. Since I’ve had to work with/follow several “leaders” over the last 35 years, I’m somewhat qualified.

There is a saying that a leader with no followers is merely someone who is out for a walk. So how do you get them – followers, that is? By being trustworthy, that’s how.

People don’t follow other people they don’t trust; unless those other people put a gun to their heads. And even then they aren’t truly being led: they are being driven.

So what might encourage people to trust you and therefore follow you? Here are seven reasons, express in naval terms. If you don’t like the naval metaphor, find one that works for you.

First of all, you are highly competent; you know what you are doing. No sailor is keen to crew for a captain who doesn’t know port from starboard and can’t read a chart.

Second, you know where you are sailing to and can paint an exciting picture of what life will be like when we get there. (Presumably it will be better than where we are now or we wouldn’t be making the trip.)

Third, you spell out what our responsibilities are while on board, and let us get on with the job. Put another way: you show that you trust us.

Fourth, you are willing to keep the entire crew abreast of how the journey is progressing and what still lies ahead. You let us know what is happening on board and why, and you don’t lie to us about an approaching storm.

Fifth, you demonstrate that you are prepared to share tough conditions. If rations become short you’ll eat and drink less like the rest of us.

Sixth, you seek to earn our loyalty through encouragement and compassion – not gain obedience through a flogging. (Who knows; apart from trusting you and respecting you, we might even come to love you.)

Seventh, you don’t allow your officers to ignore the example you set. You put them ashore if they do.


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