Building blocks of leadership from a dancing guy


If you haven’t watched the video below – do yourself a favor and watch it before you read the rest of this post.

We know – it’s pretty great. You’re welcome.

To recap, and in case you didn’t watch the whole video (because really, who has time to watch entire Youtube videos?) here are the main points the narrator brings out. (And in case you’re curious, the narrator is Derek Sivers during a TED Talk he gave on Starting Movements.) To be a good leader, you have to be public, and be easy to follow. And the true key to being a leader, or to starting a movement, is to get that first follower. The first follower is the under-appreciated key player, because they validate the position the leader has taken, and show other followers the way.

This video is instructional because what makes a person a leader is not that they think they are, or act like they are, but that other people a willing to follow them. A leader who can never inspire people to follow him may just be a lone crazy guy dancing at a music festival. So what are some traits that can influence people to follow you? The two listed in the video are simple places to start. But let’s look at a couple of other important character qualities, neatly summed up in these quotes from John Maxwell.

“If you can’t influence people, then they will not follow you. And if people won’t follow, you are not a leader. That’s the Law of Influence.”

In other words – a true leader can handle being bold, being the first one, maybe looking a bit ridiculous, as long as they can influence other people to join them. Someone with true influence doesn’t always need to toe the line of what is considered standard and acceptable. We don’t see the lone guy start his dance – so we don’t know how long he may have been dancing before he received validation in the form of a follower. But a real leader doesn’t need immediate validation or crowd approval.

The desire for instant gratification is very much a product of a generation used to everything being at their fingertips – nanoseconds away. Learning the art of delayed gratification is the only way to succeed at leadership, because change, progress, and movement don’t happen in a nanosecond. They happen with a lot of trying and failing and trying again with new ideas. This ties in very much with our post last week on the benefits of perseverance – that is a trait that serves not just sales people well, it is essential for business owners and leaders too. If you are a true leader, people will eventually follow you if you can just hold on to your vision.

“If you wouldn’t follow yourself, why should anyone else?”

This speaks to what I am going to call confidence and, maybe more importantly, self-awareness. Any leader has to have some form of confidence. Most people would call that obvious. After all, leaders are on some level assuming they can influence people to follow them, which we talked about in the previous point. But it’s not just about assuming influence. The building blocks of leadership are an individual’s confidence and awareness to believe that their character and their ideas are good enough to deserve the admiration of others. The dancing person in the video clearly has the confidence to continue his dance – whether or not anyone sees fit to join him. He believes in what he is doing, and eventually someone else does to.

Now, a good leader will have both confidence and self-awareness. Will not just make assumptions, but will be able to question their own motives and ideologies to make sure they are doing what is not just in their own best interest, but in the best interest of those they want to follow them. A good leader will realize when they are attempting to exert influence in the wrong direction, or when their confidence may threaten to become overconfidence, which is almost always damaging. And it is this balance of trusting themselves and questioning themselves that will distinguish a truly great leader.

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