Volume 4, Issue 7

July 2015

Blue Ridge Conference

Save the Date:

October 14 - 16, 2015

Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership

Black Mountain, NC


I would like to discuss the topic of leadership from a different perspective. Have you ever wondered why people follow some leaders and not others? This is rarely discussed but is an extremely important question. After all, you are only a leader if others follow.

In their book, Strengths Based Leadership, authors Tom Rath and Barry Conchie provide some practical insights on this subject. To explore why people follow, the authors interviewed 10,000 followers. They examined this from not only a work perspective but also followership taking place in the community, churches, and even in families.

Their research methodology asked the following two questions. Please pause for a few minutes and reflect on these questions.

          –What leader has the most positive influence in your daily life?

                       –What three words best describe how this person contributes to your life?

Amazingly, there was a lot of similarity in the responses. It seems followers have a very clear picture of what they want and need from their leaders:  trust, compassion, stability, and hope. Let’s examine these four basic follower needs in more detail.



Trust is established through building good relationships. Key contributing factors to trust building are honesty, integrity and respect.

Other research by Gallup reveals that the chances of employees being engaged at work when they do not trust company leaders are just 1 in 12. In stark contrast, the chances of employees being engaged are better than 1 in 2 if they trust the organization’s leadership.



Caring and friendship are two words that followers use to describe what they look for in this category. For people to truly love their organization, it needs to have a heart.  Interestingly, the closer the leader is from an organization structure standpoint, the more caring is expected by followers.

Additional Gallup research of more than 10 million people shows that the more employees believe that their supervisor cares about them the higher the retention, engagement and productivity.



Followers want a leader who they can count on during times of need. They need to know that their leaders’ core values are stable. Employees recognize that it is essential for companies to evolve, change, and grow over time. However, they expect their leaders to buffer them from unnecessary changes, provide transparency, support, confidence, and security to the extent possible. Finally, leaders need to help followers see how each of them can directly affect the organization’s key metrics like costs, quality, safety, and sales.

This enables each employee to realize the high impact they have in determining their own stable environment.



Followers seek stability in the moment and hope for the future. Other descriptors of hope include direction, faith, and guidance. Another dimension of hope that followers gravitate toward is positivity and optimism. Put simply: no one wants to follow a negative person.

One way leaders can increase or decrease hope is in allocating how they spend their time. If leaders spend most of their time reacting to the crises of the day, they convey that they are not in control. On the other hand, if leaders choose to spend more time initiating improvements, that very act can create hope for the future.

Hope gives followers something to look forward to, and helps them see a way through chaos and complexity. Knowing that things can and will be better in the future is a powerful motivator. When hope is absent, people lose confidence, disengage, and often feel helpless. If as a leader, you are not creating hope and helping people see the way forward, chances are, no one else is either.

So, as a leader how would you score yourself on meeting your employee’s four basic needs of trust, compassion, stability, and hope? Honestly, it is difficult to completely meet these needs all the time, but we should strive to do so as much as possible.

Ed Reynolds

The Contributor to this month's newsletter is Ed Reynolds

             Senior Organizational Effectiveness Associate –Eastman Chemical Company


Submitted by Livia Davis

Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership Board Member

Manager, Organizational Effectiveness and Talent Management –Eastman Chemical Company


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