poor leadership

7 Reasons Why No One is Following You

poor leadershipI believe everyone has the capacity to lead. If that’s true, then why aren’t there more skilled leaders out there? I (and a slew of my betters) spend a lot of time thinking, writing, and talking about how to lead well – how to take what you’ve got and use it to guide and inspire others. Even with all this help we struggle sometimes to muster all our gifts and talents and skills in the right direction. We fail to connect with those we mean to lead. We fail to convince others to join us on the adventure.

Many blame their inability to attract great followers on external factors like the economy, poor timing, lack of capital, no experience, or even bad weather. I believe the biggest thing that holds us back isn’t external, its internal. We sabotage ourselves with runaway emotions and uncontrolled attitudes.

So here are 7 ways that I’ve seen leaders make themselves unattractive to followers. I hate to admit it, but I’ve fallen prey to each of them to some degree at one time or another. So watch out!

1. You’re selfish. Nothing stinks more than a selfish leader. This can be subtle. But it’s easy to sense selfishness in a leader, and the stench will turn your stomach. Leaders serve people and organizations. Period. Be generous!

2. You’re anxious. Fear is healthy; anxiety is deadly – to you and your followers. Go ahead, be afraid. Then do what needs to be done in spite of your fear. That’s courage. That’s what people follow.

3. You’re insecure. An insecure leader, trying to gain worth or significance from others, is just plain pathetic. You must trust yourself before you can expect others to do the same. Know what your identity is rooted in.

4. You’re short-sighted. People want to go somewhere grand and accomplish great things – no one dreams of being a loser. If you can’t see the bigger picture, the bigger vision, you definitely can’t lead anyone there.

5. You’re not going anywhere. You can’t steer a parked car; neither can you lead without moving. The movement doesn’t need to be physical; you can move hearts, minds and beliefs – but you’ve got to move!

6. You’re entitled. Think you deserve to be trusted? Think again. Trust is always – always – earned. Followers choose to give it or withhold it. If you want their trust, ask for it, don’t demand it.

7. You’re a jerk. At it’s core, leadership is a relationship. You can’t hope to get the best out of someone if you treat them with disrespect or contempt. Great leadership springs from a genuine care for others.

Which of these 7 do you struggle with the most?

Did I miss any?

19 thoughts on “7 Reasons Why No One is Following You”

  1. Wow Geoff, this hits right at the heart. I think for myself one of the toughest things about being a leader is making decisions. I have enough trouble making them for myself, but making them for a group is much more of a challenge. That’s why it is much easier to lead where you have experience and some failures behind you. You know what works and what doesn’t. I can certainly relate to your list, and selfishness is one I have always struggled with. As I have gotten older and hopefully wiser, I wince when I think back to decisions that were “me based” instead of “we based.”

    1. Great addition, John. I know that for me the selfishness never goes away. My only hope is that the older and hopefully wiser I get the more I recognize it when it surfaces. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great list, Brian; thanks for sharing. I’d certainly like those from my leaders. I also think HOW those are delivered by leaders can have a big impact on how likely I am to follow them.

  3. Geoff,

    Just a quick note to say contrasting anxiety with fear is very instructive and useful to me. I’m taking that one to the bank.

    You have my respect because of all you do for others,



    1. Dan – you’re always so encouraging; thanks!

      I see fear as respect for a viable threat or danger, while anxiety is just general worrying about every “what if” that could occur.

      I think the antidote for anxiety (and every other stumbling block on this list is trust. Easier said then done, of course ;)

  4. Ok Seriously…

    1st I agree that these traits need to be looked at and reviewed. Constantly. They all come down to the ability to be trust worthy.

    I also wanted to add that a lot of times it can be the wrong crowd/market/timing? Their has to be a certain amount of pure stubborn determination to reach the right people who will respond accordingly. That is done through trial and error. (Edison and the light bulb)

    Passion and being a jerk “at times” are audience interpretations. So it can be outside of the person delivering the message-leading. Most people don’t fail enough. I like this quote:

    You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.
    ~ Collette ~

    1. Lots of good points, Carl.

      However, I think there’s an important difference between others thinking you’re a jerk and you truly being a jerk. Being honest and tough with people for their own good will turn some away, but disrespecting people and treating them with contempt will turn everyone away.

      That said, I’m all for failing with style ;-).

  5. I see your point…Still I can’t get the names “Steve Jobs or Bill Clinton” out of my head, . Both know for their tempers and many human failings. Seem to rise above those faults. Both have made big contributions.

    That said being a jerk is not what I want to be know for:)
    Failing with Passion

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