Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

First Follower Theory

I am a student of leadership so when this showed up in my @tenkaraguide twitters this morning:

I hit the youtube link and watched. You can too. It is 3 minutes, worth watching, very entertaining and visually delivers an important leadership lesson.

There is no movement without the first follower

A leader needs the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous. But what he’s doing is so simple, it’s almost instructional. This is key. You must be easy to follow!

Now comes the first follower with a crucial role: he publicly shows everyone how to follow. Notice the leader embraces him as an equal, so it’s not about the leader anymore – it’s about them, plural. Notice he’s calling to his friends to join in. It takes guts to be a first follower! You stand out and brave ridicule, yourself. 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.

A little more research took me to Derek Sivers. He put up the video and narrates it. It is on his blog along with the transcript: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy.

The take aways for me:

1) Someone has to be the dancing guy, that is leadership but it is overrated. we can’t all be leaders.

2) The first follower is courageous and is the real ignition for the movement.

3) It takes time to build a movement and followers may come and go (read the comments).

Sivers summation works for me:

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.

Tenkara? Sure.

The whole tenkara thing fits the first follower model hence @tenkarausa’s tweet to a couple of us early adopters.

Important keys to success in creating a movement are the leader embracing the followers as equals and the first followers showing others how to follow.

While calling the adoption of tenkara in this country a movement may be a stretch at this point, it clearly is gaining followers. The lessons of the Dancing Guy are pretty evident. Most importantly those early followers are showing others how to follow. Tenkara will continue to grow because of this willingness to share the knowledge and encouraging others to try tenkara.

There is a lesson here as well for those of us in the fly-fishing business:

  • Are you making it easy to follow you?
  • Are you welcoming them into the movement?
  • Are you sharing the knowledge?

From what I have seen the successful fly-fishing businesses can answer yes to these questions. Those who don’t look at new ideas and ways of doing business are not helping to build the fly-fishing movement.

Tenkara may be a good case study on how to help fly-fishing grow. It starts with the first follower theory.

What do you think?



  1. […] Watch Derek Sivers: First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy. Leadership is overrated. You want to find first followers who will help build a movement. Oh yeah and I relate it to tenkara in First Follower Theory. […]

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