“If everything rises and falls on leadership, then leadership rises and falls on follower-ship. For there can be no leaders without followers” – Marlon R Oliver

One of the core beliefs of a great leader, is the belief in the power of human potential. A great leader has the ability to help others find the gold buried within themselves. As well as the capacity to assist them in bringing it out. – In short, leadership is about developing people in the process of fulfilling the vision.

In order to empower and develop people effectively, leaders need to have a basic understanding of the general nature of human beings. Now I must admit, I do not like the idea of stereotyping people or putting them into boxes. Firstly, because I do not like being labeled myself, and secondly, because people have the capacity to grow and mature over time. Nevertheless, for the sake of understanding certain behavior and giving context to our discussion, I will share my take on Robert Kelly’s five different follower types.

  • The Sheep

These individuals are those who are heavily dependent on their leaders.  They lack initiative and need constant supervision and external motivation.

There are various reasons for a person to behave in this manner.  A simple reason may be that the person is still young or inexperienced. Another reason could be a lack of self confidence or fear of failure. Alternatively, the individual may simply prefer to remain dependent on others rather than take up responsibility for themselves.

These are the kind of people that are unlikely to become leaders. My advice would be to love and appreciate them for who they are. We cannot force them to become something they don’t desire for themselves.

Sheep provide us with the wool we all need.

We celebrate them for that.

  • The Yes-People

These are individuals that conform easily. They are very committed to their leaders, to the vision and the mission. They will adamantly defend their leader when faced with opposition from others.  A yes-person will never question the decisions or actions of their leader.

Whist these may sound like admirable traits in a follower, the issue is that they follow blindly, even if the leader is wrong. This implies that if a leader surrounds themselves with only yes-people, the leader may not realize they were wrong until it’s too late.

My advice to leaders is not to surround yourself with yes-people exclusively. A leader should be secure and humble enough to accept and listen to views and opinions different to his/her own. Listening to opposing views from within your group will allow you to make better quality decisions.

  • The Pragmatics

These individuals fall smack bang in the middle of the road. They are not trailblazers; they will not stand behind controversial or unique ideas. Only when the majority of the group is in agreement will the pragmatics follow along. Even then, they prefer to remain in the background.

My advice in leading a pragmatic person is to try by all means to connect with them. Find out what they passion about or what are the actual reasons are for the reservations. There may well be a powerful leader within them waiting to be revealed.

  • The Alienated

These types of people are very independent , but do nothing to move the group toward its goals. These are often the negative individuals in the group. They may go as far as deliberately attempting to stall or bring the group down. They do this by constantly questioning the decisions and actions of the leader.

Be wary of these individuals! 

Think of Judas who asked: ‘Why all this waste?’

  • The Star Followers

These individuals are very independent and are very active in helping the group to achieve its goals. They are exemplary followers, positive, active and independent thinkers. They are committed to the cause, but are not afraid to speak up if they are not in agreement on issues. Their desire is for the good of the group as a whole and can be trusted to get things done.

The leading of star followers is the most challenging and can be the most rewarding. These kinds of followers keep you on your toes and will often ask you searching questions. They are most likely to be future leaders. Insecure leaders are often threatened by them.

In order to keep them within your team, you will need to constantly provide them with new challenges and opportunities to grow. If you have a vision to expand your operations star followers are the most likely fit.

Star followers are to be treasured. They are an invaluable asset to the leader personally, and to the entire team.