Who knows if this pithy little saying is really attributable to any one person. The first time I came across it was many years ago and it was attributed as “an ancient Chinese proverb.” Maybe it is ancient, maybe it is not. But it is certainly true. And here it is:
“A man that thinks he leads, yet has no followers, is really only taking a walk.”
How many are there who think they are leaders when they are really just out for a walk?
Resolve This Year to Build Another Follower
This is one of the true marks of your leadership abilities. Do you have followers? If you do, resolve this year to increase your number of followers. Let’s not build our number of followers for the sake of a big number. It is infinitely more important to build quality followers who are passionate about where you are leading. But it is unavoidable to consider the impact that we are having and the number of followers is one of the metrics that we would want to use to gauge our effectiveness and our reach.
Why do I need followers in the first place?
Perhaps that is the wrong question. Perhaps the question is what do I do with the followers that we already have? I am not sure that a great leader goes out to amass followers. At least not a leader that I want to follow. I think the truly great leaders attract followers organically. We are drawn to these kinds of leaders through their charisma or their message. Following this line of thought reminds me of another saying that I find apropos. The one who would aspire to be the President of the United States is probably not worthy of the office. I know that is an overly simplistic statement. But, given the election cycle in which we find ourselves, the parallel is painfully obvious.
What should I do?
Perform some self-evaluation. Look at your sphere of influence and the span of your guidance today. How many followers do you have? If you don’t know, how will you determine if you have achieved the goal of building more? What is your starting point? Is it 10 followers currently? What is your goal? Is it 20 followers by the end of the year? How will you achieve the growth? What is it about you that will attract new followers to you? Will it be your personal charisma? Will it be the clarion call of your message?
Let me quickly say that I am a big fan of charismatic leaders. Here is why. I am an emotional being. And nothing gets me motivated like an emotional appeal. I am sustained through substance. But I am spurred by my emotions. I am not alone in that regard. I believe many others need their emotions stirred as well.
[Tweet this to your followers using the link below]
The reality of leadership
The reality of leadership is that many of us have had it thrust upon us. We did not seek it directly. It came with the territory. For some of you, that territory is your family. (In this case, building another follower takes on a whole new meaning, right?) For some of you, that territory is your work. For some of you, that territory is ministry or volunteer servant leadership. And for some of you it may be elected leadership. Regardless, of how you came to be a leader of sorts, you are one. And your level of responsibility is great.
If your leadership is true, just, moral and brings about a greater good, then you have an obligation or a responsibility to grow the number of followers that you are leading. Doing so, brings more and more into the circle of benefits and blessings that come with a righteous cause who has a leader with integrity.
This brings our 4 part series to a close. I hope that you have found some morsels of value in this first few articles of the year. I do not promise new material every few days this year. I do have some goals in the area of content for Leadership Voices this year. And I will be sharing those with you in the coming days. I will be asking for your help. I also have some goals that are aligned with this 4 part series. And I will be sharing those with you and asking for your help as well. As I said in the overview article on January 1st, sharing your goals with others will build a small amount of accountability into your resolutions and it will greatly increase your likelihood of accomplishing the goal set out in the resolution.
I hope that you have been enjoying this little bonus section in these articles in this series. Here is some additional resource material that may help you to build more followers in 2016. Please leave me a comment or reach out via email and let me know what you have thought about these articles and the bonus section at the end of each of them.
What Every Leader Needs to Know About Followers – by Barbara Kellerman
What Followers Want From Leaders – a Q&A session with Tom Rath and Barry Conchie, authors of Strengths Based Leadership