December 31, 2016

Followers: Why Do People Follow?

Followers-Why Do People Follow?

A question many of us ponder and discuss amongst our colleagues, coaches, and friends. Why do people follow? And then more questions come to mind. What are the followers thinking or feeling? Why are they following that person or idea? Some of us are thinking about our team, some about politics, while others are thinking about our social media followers.

I trust you’ll stop in this new year and think about your followers or team. What thoughts and feelings come to mind?

I find this study to be true and helpful, for some, a good place to start your leadership journey. You can use the “followers basic needs” when you’re looking at your journey or looking at leaders around us or in the news.

You’re a leader with your team, followers or industry, only if others follow. Leaders are only as strong as the connections they make with each person in their constituency, whether you have one follower or one million.

Yet we continue to focus on leaders and all but ignore their impact on, and the opinion of, the people they lead.

To explore why people follow, Gallup conducted a formal study from 2005 – 2008. Their goal was to obtain the average person’s opinion about leadership — instead of experts, historians, CEOs, celebrities, and politicians defining leadership for them.

In contrast to other leadership research based on case studies, interviews, research with one organization, or convenience samples, their study looked at a true random sampling of more than 10,000 followers who were contacted by The Gallup Poll.

This allowed the Gallup team to examine leadership that extends beyond an organization’s walls — leadership taking place in social networks, schools, churches, and families.

They anchored their research around this question:

“What leader has the most positive influence in your daily life?”

If they listed someone, Gallup followed up with this question:

“Please list three words that best describe what this person contributes to your life.”

Upon completion of their surveys, they studied the 25 most commonly mentioned words. To their surprise, many of the usual suspects like purposewisdomhumor, and humility were no where near the top of the list.

As they continued to review the descriptors, distinct patterns started to emerge. In some cases, more than 1,000 people had listed the exact same word, without any categories or options provided.

Given there are more than 170,000 words in the English language, this was impressive.

It seems that followers have a very clear picture of what they want and need from the most influential leaders in their lives.

Follower’s Four Basic Needs:  Trust, Compassion, Stability, and Hope

What do you think?

What are your followers thinking and feeling?

As a follower, how are your leaders stacking up?

Are you meeting the basic needs of your team?

Strengths Based Leadership – Gallup, Tom Rath, Dr. Don Clifton

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