Why Do People Follow?

The most effective leaders can rally a group of people towards a goal, cause, mission, or objective. It’s really pretty simple. You lead, they follow. But why do people follow you? Or maybe why DON’T people follow you?You are a leader only if people are willing to follow, whether it’s one or 1000. Warren Buffet put it this way: “A leader is someone who can get things done through other people.”

Gallup conducted a formal study from 2005 – 2008 to try to answer this question. They examined leadership that extended outside of an organization’s walls – leadership taking place in social networks, schools, churches, and families. Upon completion of the initial surveys, Gallup studied the 25 most common words of leadership. In some cases during the studies, more than 1000 people listed the same word without any prompting, nor categories provided. It seems that followers have a very clear picture of what they want and need from their most influential leaders. The four basic needs of followers are:


Trust: Your word is your bond – you die keeping your promises. As various political and business scandals have illustrated, followers will not tolerate dishonesty. One of Gallup’s national polls revealed that the chances of employees being engaged at work when they do not trust the company’s leaders are just 1 in 12. In contrast, when trust is present, an employee is 6 times more likely to be engaged.

Compassion: “My supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person.” When a follower can answer this question with a positive affirmation, several things happen within an organization:

1. Individuals are more likely to stay with their company
2. Their customers are more engaged
3. The team member is substantially more productive
4. They produce more revenue for an organization.

Compassion from a supervisor affects the bottom line, period.

Stability: Followers reported that the best leaders are those that could be counted on in time of need. As a leader, your followers also need to know that your core values are stable and not wishy washy. In the workplace, it is critical for organizations to evolve and change over time, but you must also offer employees stability and confidence at the most basic levels.

Hope: This higher-level need is tricky. Followers want stability in the present but hope for the future. Hope gives followers something to look forward to and helps them see through the chaos and complexity of a situation. When hope is absent, people lose confidence, disengage, and often feel helpless.

Understanding the needs of followers is an important aspect of leadership. Consider choosing one of the needs from above to focus your efforts on for a while and see how your leadership skills sharpen.

Share This Post

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on email

More To Explore