True leaders create leaders, not followers

Some people believe that leaders need followers.

We disagree. 

We believe that:

True leaders create more leaders, not followers.

Why is this? 

When times are stable, aligning the organisation around the vision of a single person or leadership team provides focus and momentum. Like a supertanker, it ensures that all the resources are headed in the same direction, at the same speed, at the same time, and all can be controlled by a single hand on the wheel.

But when times are churning, the ability to adapt becomes paramount.

To survive in a time of change, the organisation’s ability to change must be greater than the rate of change in the marketplace.

If not, an organisation whose ability to change is less than the rate of change in the marketplace will inevitably get left behind.

For an organisation of followers, the ability to change is limited to the capacity of a single person or leadership team. They will need to deal with changes that might include new technologies, new customer needs, suppliers, competitors, legislation, economic environment, …

Worse than that, followers are dependent — they need to be told what to do. That creates extra workload for the leader, reducing their capacity to handle change and turning them into a bottleneck.

The result is stagnation.

But leaders who create more leaders increase the capacity of every person to handle change. That reduces the workload on the leader.

If every person has read Inner Leadership and knows how to remain calm and grounded in a crisis, how to make clear sense of the situation, how to find the opportunities in any crisis, how to choose the one that best aligns with their purpose and the purpose of the organisation, and how to inspire themselves and the people around them to do what needs to be done then the capacity for change in the organisation increases exponentially.

Now the organisation faces a new problem: how to choose between and coordinate the different opportunities that are arising. 

For the leader who has created more leaders not followers, this is a more welcome problem to face than stagnation. And she or he has freed up the capacity to deal with it.

Leaders who create more leaders turn their organisation from a single supertanker into a fleet of agile speedboats. In a world filled with unpredictable rocks this is useful.

Leaders who create more leaders make themselves, their people, and their organisations antifragile: able to use change to become stronger.

Do the people around you encourage you to become a better follower or a better leader? What do you encourage in other people? With the changes you see coming, one year from now do you want to be working in a team of followers or a team of leaders?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: a framework and tools for building inspiration in times of change.

You can sign up to daily posts here.

You can buy the book here and the workbook here.

(And remember: you don’t learn to swim by reading about swimming, you also need to practice.)

Photo By Aramis Funkographer via


One Reply to “True leaders create leaders, not followers”


Leave a Reply