The Reason People Follow You


Compiled and modified by Craig Cooper from Strengths-Based Leadership by Tom Rath & Barry Conchie

There are a lot of books on how to lead people. I have dozens of them. But there is little material on why people follow you. This article is an attempt to give that answer. If we understand why people follow it will help us to lead them. This article is based on a Gallup study done from 2005-2008 with 10,000 people.

To explore why people follow, Gallup conducted a formal study from 2005-2008. Our goal was to obtain the average person’s opinion about leadership – instead of experts, historians, CEOs, celebrities, and politicians defining leadership for them. In sharp contrast to other leadership research, which is primarily based on case studies, interviews, research with one organization, or convenience samples, this study looked at a true random sampling of more than 10,000 followers who were contacted via The Gallup Poll.

Strengths-Based Leadership by Tom Rath & Barry Conchie.

4 Reasons were found that people follow leaders. This is why people follow or not follow you. So leaders compare yourself to these 4 reasons to improve your leadership ability!

1. Trust

Trust is crucial in any type of relationship, whether it be within a family, a business, a church congregation, or in a friendship. Leaders should assume that the starting condition for many people in an organization is a mildly to significantly negative experience of leadership—the damage stemming from having trusted those in power and subsequently being used, abused, disappointed, or hurt. They become skeptical and untrusting of leaders, and as leaders, we need to overcome this prejudice.

Trust is about safety, and feelings of confidence that follows from it.

How Do You Develop Trust?

Be a Person of Character.  It’s all about character. Are you a person that does what they say? The key to consistent and dependable trust lies in the character of the person who leads. Trust starts by leaders being authentic. Trust comes from a track record of honesty, fairness, and integrity.

Be Vulnerable.We trust people we believe are real.

Tell the Truth. A culture of trust is a culture of truth. As leaders we must build an insatiable demand for the unvarnished facts, honest feedback, and real information. Too often people evaluate facts as “good” or “bad” and shape their delivery accordingly. We must instill a confidence that leaders in the organization value the facts and truth, not whether they are good or bad, and that messengers are valued, not shot.

Developing a culture of truth could be the most frustrating and difficult thing you will ever do as a leader. It takes real courage to come clean with your mistakes and failures; that’s why authenticity is the first step. It takes real guts to be your real self and admit your errors to the world. But that makes you trustworthy, and gives you the power to enforce a standard of integrity, and makes it safe for others to follow your example.

2. Compassion

Avoid the ‘Admit it and Quit it’ attitude. Yes, they are people that this is the right answer for them but it will not work to say it. As a leader you have to show compassion:

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. – Theodore Roosevelt

How Do You Develop Compassion?

Here are some starters.

Learn the Skill of Listening. There are a lot of resources on the internet and books that help you become a listener. To show compassion you have to learn to listen. No exceptions.

Try to Imagine Yourself in that Place. Enough said.

Try to Imagine where you would be without grace towards you. Remember all the times people helped you that to get to where you are at the person in front of you may not have had.

3. Stability

Your emotional, financial, relational stability is an anchor that others needs. There is a fine line between being vulnerable and being a basket case that people are afraid will rub off on them.

How Do You Develop Stability? Here are some points but this takes time. How can you show that you are stable without time?

Don’t jerk people around.Think about what you are doing, don’t just react.

Let your Yes be Yes and Your No No. Don’t keep changing your mind unless there is a good reason for it that everyone recognizes. If you are not sure what to do wait as long as possible before making a decision.

Develop Wisdom by Learning from others in your areas of weakness.

Discipline. Deal with those who are not competent, morale killers, etc. in your organization. If they stay around too long they will run off your best employees. This will cause a vicious cycle of your best people leaving.

4. Hope

How Do You Demonstrate Hope?

Encourage.Encouragement has the effect of a gentle rain – it causes growth. I have yet to find the person, whatever his or her station in life, who did not perform better under a spirit of approval than under criticism. Practice appreciating people for who they are, admiring their accomplishments and accepting your personal responsibility to take the heat at times.

Believe the Best in People and Help Them Be Successful.Develop a person’s expectation level by believing the best about him or her. When people are successful they know you helped and believed in them. This lets them know you are not trying to put yourself first.

Remind them of where you are Going and What You Hope to Accomplish. Remind them of the rewards that are there and any additional ones coming if certain things happen.


Did you notice what is not on this list? Wisdom, Quick thinking, decisiveness, strategy, or vision. These are the types of things leadership books seek to develop in an individual. But none of these things are why people follow. These are obviously important are you will probably go out of business without them, but are not the ingredients to get people to follow you. So as a leader you must develop skills to make the business succeed and skills to go forward as a team.

Categories: Leadership

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