When Sigma Partners’ Richard Dale posted a video of a random dancing guy to his Venture Cyclist blog I was skeptical. I’d seen the original video sans narration and dismissed it as a strange sociological phenomenon condensed into a quick three minute clip. Nevertheless, when the same video is narrated by MuckWork and CDBaby founder Derek Sivers, it provides some valuable leadership lessons for entrepreneurs.
Having first presented the video at this year’s TED Conference, Sivers make the case that instead of the first mover / leader being the catalyst of a movement, it is in fact the first follower that rallies others.
Says Sivers, “Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire. “
For entrepreneurs, it means that the key to virality isn’t just building a great product. It’s about having the right early adopters to teach others how to use the product and become comfortable with the novelty of something new. Sivers explains that it’s the early adopters that others follow and not the trailblazing / seemingly crazy leader. In other words, it’s important to respect your earliest users and give them the mechanisms to make their support public.
Says Sivers, “We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective. The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow. When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.”
We’ve seen our fair share of angel investors, early executives and engineers follow a lone nut and build successful businesses. As an entrepreneur, who do you credit as your first follower and what efforts have you made to ensure that the act of following is made public?