It is rare I come across information on the practice of leadership rooted in actionable advice and useful for my clients. Recently however, I discovered a brilliant 3 minute talk on the role of leaders in starting a movement. The creator, Derek Sivers, is the former CEO of CD Baby, and now travels the world as a self-proclaimed “nomad” researching, speaking and volunteering his time. I was so impressed with the content and the delivery of his message, I formally integrated it into a Coaching Camp I created. The following are a few of the key leadership lessons Derek covers:
First, a leader needs to have the guts to stand out of the crowd and risk being ridiculed. During the initial phase of any new initiative, success is directly correlated to force of will and willingness to take a risk. Second, leadership which seeks to engage the people in the change is less about the leader and more about the followers. The first follower fills a critical role. Identifying and recruiting the first follower “turns the lone nut into a leader” and future followers look to the first follower for guidance rather than the leader. Next, to fully engage the follower, the actions must be easy to follow and the leader must embrace the follower as an equal. This, combined with making the movement public allows the first follower to attract others and spread the change quickly and effectively. Finally, when each of these elements are in place, more and more followers engage, making the movement less risky and creating an “in crowd” that others want to join.
So what can we take from this? Creating a movement is more about attracting and nurturing the first followers than it is about the actions of the leader. By keeping actions simple to learn and reproduce, and ensuring the movement is visible to the organization, the leader is able to create “pull” until the movement reaches a tipping point and takes on a life of its own. Finally, being a leader is risky. If you are not willing to take a risk and move the organization in a radically different direction, neither will anyone else.