I recently saw this great video that extolls the virtues of the “first follower” – the person who is willing to jump up to join the leader, thus converting him/her from a lone nut to the role of leader. The first follower is THE key to gaining more followers and ultimately creates the success of any movement, as this funny video demonstrates.
After I watched it, it got me thinking about all the recent examples of leadership we have seen on the global stage such as the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Then further back to Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement as well as the work of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta organizing farm workers. All of the leaders who started these movements would not have succeeded without the courage of the first follower – the person who stood up and gave legitimacy to the leader’s challenge of the status quo. And we don’t even know their names.
It made me realize that what our society really needs is more first followers – people who are smart enough to recognize a good idea and who have the courage to risk ridicule to support it. Maybe we shouldn’t be spending our time and energy trying to always BE the leader but rather looking around for the right people and causes to follow. I know this sounds counterintuitive in a culture that values individualism but the reality is that every day, a lot of great ideas die quiet deaths because the leader couldn’t get something going — one brave first follower would have made all the difference.
Consider the following:
- Look around your community and see what awesome effort would benefit from your support
- Contemplate your work environment to see if you can give a boost to a colleague with a great idea
- Identify a community leader who resonates with your values and see if you can push along his/her tipping point
- Check out the young people and children in your family and role model the power of the first follower (especially if they are doing the leading!)
While the first follower is not a glamorous role, it is a crucial one. I am certain that the first follower in every major movement saw the power of his/her actions and enjoyed the reward of being the change they wanted to see in the world.
And hey, maybe they even got a cool bonus from the leader.