Need a Transformation? Focus on Your First Follower

by | Feb 7, 2018 | Blog, High Road Leadership, Leadership


Leadership is a work-in-progress. This means that there is always something that I can learn, which can help me, as I grow as a leader.

A friend showed me a video that has been around since 2010 and has nearly 5 million views. If you want to watch it before you read the rest of this, please do. I will also place the link at the end, in case you wait.

As an agent of change, I have led successful and unsuccessful shifts and transformations. The unsuccessful ones were incidents where nothing changed. I once believed that poor leadership on my part was the cause of the unhealthy status quo remaining. But, after watching this video, I discovered my error and now hold a different point of view.

To get the movement started, I needed to focus on my first follower, and I didn’t do that.

Every movement forward, shift, and transformation requires people to buy in and then change. The leader’s challenge is always: “How do I get people, who are likely to resist, to behave differently?”

This video shows what can happen once the first follower makes the behavior shift. As I reflected on the major changes I have witness in my life, I could see the impact of the first follower. Transformations such as the 1960’s Civil Rights movement, the Tiananmen Square protest, the adoption of email and the internet, and most recently the #MeToo earthquake.

The 1st Leadership Lesson

After you develop the vision and begin a movement in any arena, you must invest the rest of your TENERGY [time and energy] on recruiting and engaging the first follower.

You Leader Action Plan

I offer five key actions to take, that will help ensure your desired change happens.

  1. Identify who is likely to be an advocate for the needed change.
  2. Continue to sell this group on how they will benefit from the transformation.
  3. Demonstrate the behavior and thinking shifts that you want and need.
  4. Encourage, both overtly and subtly, the new behaviors. This will come from the early adopters.
  5. If the first follower is avidly enthusiastic about the change, do what you can to amplify this zeal, so that others see this and want to join in.

By now you may be thinking, “But Ron, there are many areas where people have tried to make change and things are still the same? I don’t think this works.”

I agree. We still face famine, wars, discrimination, corporate malfeasance, etal.

My response to your astute question is that major disruptions, like these, are systemic cultural problems and require many small movements that build over time. That time could be years, decades, and even centuries. Your leadership is over the smaller venues that you control, such as a team, a company, a family.

The 2nd Leadership Lesson

Keep in mind that small shifts can lead to bigger and bigger shifts. The rapid escalation of the use of social media is an example. Each time a new tool is offered and gets adopted, this leads to another shift in the social media ecospace. Go back ten years ago and then the decade before. The adoption and usage of social media platforms has moved like a frog in a pond. Jump. Sit. Jump. Sit. By looking at the overall view of the transformation, you can see how the early adopters helped create the small shits that make up the transformation.

I predict the movement toward driverless vehicles will follow this same pattern. Small change + small change + small change à major shift + major shift à societal transformation.


We will eventually find real solutions for war, poverty, and discrimination, etal. And, we will get there when each of us lead a smaller shift. Therefore, if you believe that change needs to take place where you live and or work, then start a small movement and actively recruit your first follower. Then do it again and again. Who knows what your world will look like in 10 years?

Let’s lead the way to this better life.

A tip of my hat to Derek Severs



<hr class="style11">

Ron Rael Leadership Provocateur, is a keynote speaker, consultant, and author.

Follow Ron on Twitter: @leaderexpert

Connect to Ron on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Schedule a Call with Leadership Expert, Ron Rael