Following. It’s the New Leadership

by Jennifer Miller on May 19, 2011

in Leadership

If you find yourself still thinking about a three-minute video clip six days after you first saw it, chances are it had a pretty powerful message. That’s definitely the case for me as I reflect on the hilarious, but insightful video clip shown at the TEDx Grand Rapids event last week.

The video features Derek Sivers in a TED Talk called “How to Start a Movement”. It’s a video-within-a-video format in which Derek narrates key ingredients to gaining followership as a background screen rolls amateur video footage of an outdoor event in which a lone person dancing turns into a massive free-for-all of peopling joining in.

Take a minute (well, actually three) and check it out here:

Beneath Derek’s light-hearted tone was a serious message about leadership: followers play a key role in making things happen. Sure, the leader tends to get all the recognition, but in reality a leader by can’t be a leader without followers. And nurturing those “early adopters”—the ones who took a chance and risked looking foolish will be key to a leader’s continued success.

“The first follower is really an underestimated form of leadership itself. It takes guts to stand out like that.”

Creating change via big ideas should be at the top of a leader’s to-do list. But the change may not be welcome. Think back to a time when you had an idea that had the potential to create huge opportunity. But it was a crazy idea that required an audacious leap of faith.  You knew it could work, if only you could get a few more people behind you to help create the momentum.  

How did you gain those first followers? Did you nurture them. . . thank them . . .treat them as equals?

Your next Big Idea is just around the corner. “The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.”

How will you facilitate that transformation?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Derek Sivers May 19, 2011 at 10:58 am

Thank you! I really appreciate it.

The original/master version of the talk is at with a full transcript. Feel free to download the video and use anywhere.

– Derek

Jennifer May 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm


Thanks for sharing the link to the original post. Excellent!

The audience at TEDx Grand Rapids (Michigan) absolutely loved your talk. Here’s a key lesson I drew from watching your clip: make your point and then get off the stage. No need to belabor it. If it’s a good one (and yours was!) then it’ll stand on its own.

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