The Relationship Between Leadership & Followership


There is a strong connection between leaders and followers. This seems obvious, but it’s worth taking a closer look, because without the latter, there would be no need for the former. Leadership is less about taking control of a situation where the leader must organize others toward an end result and more about mobilizing a concerted effort toward a larger purpose.

In Touch With Perspectives

So, what is the most effective way leaders can mobilize action? There are many. But, how can a leader mobilize individuals and teams in a way that in the end is uplifting and met with enthusiasm, thereby increasing motivation and productivity?

You guessed it: service or servant leadership. As an ongoing student of this practice, I have learned that truly great leadership is always centered on the needs of those working to make things happen, as well as those who are ultimately being served. To begin, service or servant leadership starts with knowing oneself, feeling comfortable with oneself, and developing high levels of emotional intelligence (EI), which in turn allows leaders to be in touch with the emotions and feelings—and ultimately perspective—of those they serve. My belief is that service leadership includes impacting language, influencing relationships, and inspiring performance in others. Simply stated,  leaders who love, serve, and care for others by accessing their own EI enhance relationships and performance.

7 Secrets of Leaders that People Love to Follow

I once read an article by Julia Dean (if you can find it please send it my way!) that outlined seven secrets of “leaders infecting others with confidence, optimism and respect”, some of the most basic qualities in service or servant leadership. Let’s take a look.

  1. Leaders that people love, know who they are.

The first secret of leadership is the ability to be able to identify and understand your own emotions. Knowing why you feel angry or sad or elated or any of the powerful emotions will allow you to control them. Rather than acting instinctively, the strong leader can identify the emotion they are feeling and do a rapid analysis and respond rationally.

  1. Strong leaders know how to relax.

Stress is basically a form of fear and is an enormous distraction. Left unchecked, stress can lead to irrational responses, paralyses, poor judgments, damaged relations and of course low productivity. Understanding the cause of the stress and being able to rationally evaluate those causes eliminates the fear factor and allows the leader to relax and focus on a logical approach to any challenge.

  1. Successful leaders can “speak” nonverbally.

What is commonly referred to as “body language” is really just an outward expression of emotion. The successful leader is attuned to the way others express themselves physically, so he can identify what their emotional state is and accommodate it. On the flip side, he consciously expresses body language in a way that conveys an emotion appropriate to the situation.

  1. True leaders understand those that they lead.

This is perhaps the most difficult skill to develop. Leaders have to not only be able to identify the emotions of their followers, but also understand why they are feeling that way. It means skillful listening and rational investigational techniques. It means you can’t fall back on the “If they’d just do it my way” response.

  1. Great leaders “infect” the people they lead.

Science has proven that emotions are contagious. Mob mentality, where a widely diverse group of individuals find themselves suddenly all expressing the same emotion and behavior is evident at any football game, wedding, funeral or riot. A powerful emotional moment, like the bride saying “I do” or the home team scoring or the lowering of a casket into a grave, will trigger an almost universal response, and everyone within its influence will have the same emotion. Great leaders encourage an infection of positive emotions like confidence, optimism and respect among their followers.

  1. True leaders are a combination of the coach and waterboy.

The confidence that high EI instills in the true leader allows him to focus on the objective and not worry about competition for his leadership role. In fact, the inspired leader knows that the more he or she can encourage the development of EI in the people they serve, the more effective and productive their organization will be and that will reflect on the value of their leadership skills. True leaders identify the objective and then, just like the waterboy, ensures everyone has the resources they need to stay in the game.

  1. Relationships are the driving force in a true leader.

An effective leader is always concerned with improving relationships. He or she knows that everything they do, from leading an organization to being a spouse and parent and buying bread and milk at the grocery store, they do with or through other people. They understand that by using their EI, they can strengthen those relationships and lead a more satisfying and fulfilling life.

Are leaders the only ones who benefit from high and intentional emotional intelligence? Absolutely not. Everyone can lead more productive and enjoyable lives if they simply try to be in tune with their own emotions and consider the emotional needs of others.

Have another leadership secret you’d like to share? 

In service, 


Dig deeper on the topic:

Why Emotional Intelligence Is Important In Leadership

Why People Follow The Leader: The Power of Transference

If You Don’t Love Your People, You Cannot Lead Them

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