Leaders and Followers


In Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill discusses the difference between Leaders and Followers.   He divides the whole world into these two categories, and asks each person to make a decision about which they want to be in their chosen field.  There is no disgrace in being a follower, Hill says, although there is usually a big difference in pay.  “The follower cannot reasonably expect the compensation to which a leader is entitled,” he says, “Although many followers make the mistake of expecting such pay.”

Hill says that most great leaders started as followers.  They became successful because they were “intelligent followers.”  He defines “following intelligently” as the ability to learn from your leader.  Here are some things you should be learning from your leader every day.

  • How to get things done.  There are many ways to get things done in an organization, and you may have to master them all.  You can do things yourself, delegate them to others, hire experts to get them done, learn to do them or teach others to do them, and ask others to help you learn or do them.  The one option open to leaders that is usually not available to followers is ordering someone to do things.  Watching your boss in action can provide a wealth of information on when to delegate, negotiate, or just dig in and get to work.
  • What’s important. Your leader will provide plenty of feedback on what’s important at any given moment.  If you’re not sure about a deadline or priority for a project, ask for direction.  Work on what’s most important first whenever possible.
  • How much detail is necessary.   In my experience, people who remain followers are often consistently over-prepared or under-prepared for projects or meetings.  Are you too focused on small details to see the strategy?  Or are you breezing into meetings without notes?  You’ll know you have mastered the right level of detail when you start providing your leader with information just when he realizes he needs it.

 Here are Hill’s Major Attributes of Leadership.

  1.  UNWAVERING COURAGE based upon knowledge of self, and of one’s occupation. No follower wishes to be dominated by a leader who lacks self-confidence and courage. No intelligent follower will be dominated by such a leader very long.
  2. SELF-CONTROL. The man who cannot control himself, can never control others. Self-control sets a mighty example for one’s followers, which the more intelligent will emulate.
  3. A KEEN SENSE OF JUSTICE. Without a sense of fairness and justice, no leader can command and retain the respect of his followers.
  4. DEFINITENESS OF DECISION. The man who wavers in his decisions, shows that he is not sure of himself. He cannot lead others successfully.
  5. DEFINITENESS OF PLANS. The successful leader must plan his work, and work his plan. A leader who moves by guesswork, without practical, definite plans, is comparable to a ship without a rudder. Sooner or later he will land on the rocks.
  6. THE HABIT OF DOING MORE THAN PAID FOR. One of the penalties of leadership is the necessity of willingness, upon the part of the leader, to do more than the part he requires of his followers.
  7. A PLEASING PERSONALITY. No slovenly, careless person can become a successful leader. Leadership calls for respect. Followers will not respect a leader who does not grade high on all of the factors of a Pleasing Personality.
  8. SYMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING. The successful leader must be in sympathy with his followers. Moreover, he must understand them and their problems.
  9. MASTERY OF DETAIL. Successful leadership calls for mastery of details of the leader’s position.
  10. WILLINGNESS TO ASSUME FULL RESPONSIBILITY. The successful leader must be willing to assume responsibility for the mistakes and the shortcomings of his followers. If he tries to shift this responsibility, he will not remain the leader. If one of his followers makes a mistake, and shows himself incompetent the leader must consider that it is he who failed.
  11. COOPERATION. The successful leader must understand, and apply the principle of cooperative effort and be able to induce his followers to do the same. Leadership calls for POWER, and power calls for COOPERATION.
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