The Critical Role of First Followers

Sam Rainer

August 25, 2010

A friend sent me this video today. It’s from Derek Sivers and a speech he gave at the TED Conference earlier this year.

The video contains an important leadership lesson:

A leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he’s doing is so simple, it’s almost instructional. This is key. You must be easy to follow!

Now comes the first follower with a crucial role: he publicly shows everyone how to follow. Notice the leader embraces him as an equal, so it’s not about the leader anymore – it’s about them, plural. Notice he’s calling to his friends to join in. It takes guts to be a first follower! You stand out and brave ridicule, yourself. Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire.

It’s also encouraging to know leaders can be bad dancers…

4 comments on “The Critical Role of First Followers”

  1. Eric says:

    so which are you Sam? the first follower or the nut without the shirt?

  2. Sam Rainer says:

    Dude, c’mon now. You know I’m nuts…

  3. Jeff Bridges says:

    Great post! I’d never thought about the importance of the first follower before, thank you for the insight!

    One more thing I’d love to get your thoughts on: as the crowd grows, the original intent—funny dancing—seems to disappear. It eventually turns into a bunch of people just standing there together, with few dancing and even fewer dancing as wildly as the first few guys. Is there a lesson in that, too?


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