Henry & Richard Blackaby in their book, Spiritual Leadership: Moving People on to God’s Agenda, state that People without followers are not leaders (P.147). This statement clearly argues the importance of followers, but I’ve often wondered, why do people follow? Is interesting that most of the information we research or study is with the purpose of better understanding the leader, rather than the followers. As I asked myself that question, I researched some articles and found an interesting one from the Gallup’s Strength website entitled, “Why People Follow”. (http://strengths.gallup.com/private/resources/followers_study.pdf )
The initial data were collected from Gallup Polls of 10,004 U.S. adults (over age 18) conducted from 2005-2006 using Gallup’s standard Random Digit Dial (RDD) methodology. They asked two simple questions to their subjects, 1) What leader has the most positive influence in your daily life? and 2) List three words that best describe what this person contributes to your life. Based on their initial studies of 10,004 people, the following key themes (or basic needs) emerged:
An interesting factor about this survey is that in the vast majority of cases, the leader who had the most impact was someone very close to the person answering the survey. I began to look back on my own experience as a follower and I realized that, I too follow leaders that exhibit similar attributes and those that I am familiar with. I think followers follow those close to them because there is an element of trust there. I would also add to the list of attributes, knowledge and humility. I believe a leader I would want to follow needs to be knowledgeable about where he is taking me, but also humble enough to admit that he could use my input at times, in order to get us there. I guess that is called, team work?
In my opinion, people follow because they are given a good enough reason to follow. Humans have an insatiable need for discovery, and people are constantly looking for ways to better themselves, to find purpose and a way to fulfill a call to do something meaningful. I believe people follow leaders that provide that for them. Therefore, leaders need to be aware of how much power their followers place at their disposal, and they need to be able to make knowledgeable decisions that are birth out of trust, compassion, stability, hope and humility.