What separates you from being a crazed babbling lunatic and a leader?

One follower.

According to Derek Sivers, leadership starts with someone who has the guts and chutzpah to stand out and be ridiculed. Being different doesn’t have to mean being wierd (*which is part of another awesome TED talk) but it does require being confident enough in your message, vision, and purpose to be willing to put yourself out there. What makes someone a true leader is their ability to facilitate and earn the following of somone else. Below are the following points I took away from Derek Sivers TED Talk from 2010 titled “How to start a Movement”.

1. A leader has to have the guts to stand out and be ridiculed for their idea. Willing to take a risk alone.

2. A leader must be able to make their message/vision/purpose easy to understand and follow.

3. The first follower must be embraced and accepted as an equal.

4. The first follower has just as much leadership and risk as the leader.

5. The Leader must make the message about ‘them’.

6. The first follower is the biggest recruiter of others.

7. Two are an idea, three is a movement and ready to be put out in public.

8. Everyone else who joins next is because of the followers, not the leader.

9. Its easy to build and grow now because the ‘risk’ of supporting is reduced by each new follower.

10. Now you have turned the tables, you are ridiculed for not being a part of the change.

* Leadership is overglorfied. Without the first follower this never would have happened. The risk of being the leader and the first follower is different but equal.

New term:

First Followship– the ability to see the value in someone else’s idea/message/vision and take the risk to join them

It takes a certain type of person to truly start something new. Someone not afraid to be a challenger and potentially fail and be ridiculed. Or are you the first follower? Observant and aware of someone else’s ‘crazy’ idea that you think might just work. There is power and leadership in both positions and they are equally as important. Consider the analogy between an entreprenuer and a venture capitalist. Complete symbiotic relationship in which success and leadership is needed from both participants or they both fail. Then you have some babbling lunatic with an idea and someone just sitting idly by with the ability to support that idea.

What are your takeaways from this short 3 minute TED talk? Which do you identify with best: the leader, the first follower, or another supporter/follower in the crowd?

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Corey McCarren

Great post. It depends what environment I’m in for me. I believe in listening first, but if I’ve got the hang of something I’d be glad to throw out my idea because I’m confident in my ideas so I’m less worried about what other people think. I love the idea that the first follower is a leader though, that’s awesome.

Deb Green

Great post – and totally true. Leadership isn’t only about being “in charge”. Leadership is about getting people to buy in to what you’re doing, saying, or advocating. There’s probably a fine line in the early stages between lunacy and leadership…. but there’s also a fine line between “weird” and “genius” too.

Gordon Lee Salmon

Andreas great post and poignantly illustrated by David’s video. Leadership can emerge in unlikely ways and once present can be so attractive to followers.

Dannielle Blumenthal

Great headline. Here’s how I think of it –

* A lunatic is someone who’s out of touch with reality altogether.

* A visionary is someone who sees the future 3-5 years out – before anybody else – so they think he/she’s a lunatic.

* A leader is someone who sees the future 1-2 years out, can articulate it, and who has fellowship and influence within the community sufficient to bring them along.

Less abstractly a leader is also someone who can bring the future from vision to reality by organizing it and packaging it in a consumable way.

Along the lines of what Deb said, it’s getting people engaged but also rolling up your sleeves.

Anyone can be a leader, and the best leaders stay very close to the action.

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

Something that I have observed in great leadership is the paradoxical ego. The leader has the will to see his or her vision come true and a great belief in that vision despite the criticisms of others. Even so, this same leader is willing to listen to the valid criticisms of others and adjust their vision if the facts warrant the change. A humble persistence might be the hallmark of a great leader and the first follower.