Who advocates for you when you’re the CEO, sitting atop the heap? Who enhances and amplifies the credibility of your vision with employees? Who helps you make sure you and your business are well on your way to achieving the goals you’ve set?
Who is your First Follower?
In a 2010 TED talk (link at the end of the article – keep reading!), Derek Sivers introduced the concept of the First Follower, or the person who “transforms a lone nut into a leader.” The First Follower helps create a movement, first by being embraced as an equal by the lone nut and then by showing others why and how to follow as well.
Having a strong First Follower is critical to entrepreneurial success. A First Follower is not necessarily an entrepreneur’s first hire. It’s the go-to person on the leadership team whose influence, attitude, and skill set has helped the company develop an upbeat and achievement-oriented culture. This person:
- Grasps the big picture – warts and all
- Advocates for pretty much everybody (including the leader!) with the goal of bringing greater unity and alignment between the leader’s vision and employees’ skills and interests
- Makes sure the business maintains focus on the vision and goals
- Works with individuals to define and achieve goals and improvement, and to see their respective value to the overall organization
- Provides presence and leadership when the CEO needs to spend more time facing outside the company
- Is the voice when no one else wants to speak, knows what to say, or how to say it
A First Follower is expected to facilitate company growth, by enabling customer-facing personnel to spend more time facing customers, and non customer-facing employees to feel valued and equal to their colleagues. With a good First Follower in place, businesses will attract and retain similarly motivated folks, sustain and improve cohesion, enthusiasm, focus, and culture, and ultimately see at least steady growth and goal attainment.
If you (the leader) are dealing with issues such as an antagonistic / dispirited / demotivated workforce; feeling alone, overwhelmed, or like an inadequate leader; and/or are uncertain how to get everyone pulling in the same direction, you don’t have a First Follower and you need one.
Unlike in the video where a random person assumes the role of First Follower, business leaders need to look for someone whom they believe will be compatible with everyone in the organization, and whom the leader is prepared to view as an equal. Specifically, a First Follower in business:
- Has multi-disciplinary expertise
- Operates inside the organization with minimal function bias
- Is goal oriented and comfortable in a leadership role
- Demonstrates consistently great people skills, including enthusiasm and realistic optimism
- Is absolutely trustworthy
When you team up with a great First Follower, you’ll find the credibility and strength of your message increases exponentially.
When you have a strong second, many more will follow, and you’ll be in a much better position to make mad bank.
Now you may watch this 3-minute video.