by Kevin Jennings
Finding and nurturing the first few followers is the key to every movement
For any leader, one of the greatest desires (and rewards) is to see your team reciprocate your passion and purpose. We want to create more than another job or ministry. As leaders, we want a movement so the commitment to the mission will outlast us and the impact and influence of the work will outgrow us.
In February 2010, successful entrepreneur Derek Sivers promised to show everyone how to start a movement in under three minutes at the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Conference in Long Beach, Calif. He used a very unusual illustration—people dancing at a music festival. (I definitely recommend watching his presentation if you’ve never seen it. It’s just five minutes!)
Key Ingredients to a Movement
According to Sivers, there’s a recipe to creating a movement:
- A leader who has the courage to stand out and be ridiculed.
- A person who is willing to model the leader, invite others, and show them how to follow.
- A second person who is willing to validate the behaviors and beliefs of the current tandem. As Sivers quipped, “Three’s a crowd.”
Yes, but, as Sivers pointed out, there’s a way to best use the ingredients so the movement gets off the ground. Rather than directions, think of them as guidelines.
Guidelines for Nurturing a Movement
To cultivate a movement, Derek recommends:
- The leader must make himself/herself easy to follow. Consider simplifying the way your followers can join you. For organizations like TOMS or Goodwill, it’s as simple as purchasing a different brand of shoes the next time you need a new pair or donating your used goods instead of having a yard sale. In other cases, followers have to be guided in other ways. Either way, remember these followers will be showing everyone else how to follow.
- The leader must embrace the first few followers as equals. By doing so, the value is placed on the mission and the team rather than the leader. You make it clear the focus is on “us and we” versus “I and me.”
- The leader must empower and encourage the first followers to invite others they believe are like-minded to join the movement. As the old saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together.” It’s likely that your early followers will have friends that may appreciate and support your new movement.
- In order to expedite the growth of the movement, the leader and the early followers must make the movement public. Allowing others to witness the camaraderie, passion, and purpose of the leader and followers encourages observers to follow suit. A public movement also supports our earlier guidelines of making it easy for others to follow and empowering followers to recruit others.
What You Do Next
So, here are your next steps:
If you’re the leader:
- Remember the importance of nurturing your first few followers and placing the emphasis on the cause or purpose rather than yourself.
- Acknowledge and appreciate the bravery and leadership of your early followers. As Sivers brilliantly stated, “The first follower is an underrated form of leadership.” It takes courage to use your time and energy, risk your reputation, encounter criticism and embrace uncertainty to follow someone else.
- Consider being a first follower instead. Without first followers, names likes Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Jobs, and even Jesus would have less notoriety than they do. As the leader, you will be first and given much of the credit, but Sivers said, “Leadership is over glorified. . . . The first follower is what transforms the lone nut into a leader.” When you find a lone nut pushing for a cause or mission you believe in, have the courage to be the first one to follow. Then, invite others and show them how to follow.
Kevin Jennings serves The reThink Group as the Director of Platform Marketing where he helps leaders cultivate their influence and guides the promotion of new works by Orange Books. Kevin joined The reThink Group after spending years helping others—including authors, entrepreneurs, artists and executives—nurture their ideas through marketing, branding and business design. He has had the pleasure of working with Tony Robbins, Dave Ramsey, and William Morris Endeavor. Kevin’s mission is to help people maximize the potential of their ideas, their careers, and their positive impact on others. Learn more about Kevin at www.kevinbjennings.com.