Three Mistakes Followers Make and How They Hurt, Part 3

If you’ve been a leaderhelps reader for a while now, you know I’ve been writing on mistakes leaders make. That work has been based on research on leader behaviors and followers’ responses to those behaviors. With this series, I address the other side of the leader-follower equation: Three important mistakes we make as followers.

In Part 1, I explained what I mean by the term, “follower” (and addressed the concern some people have with that word) and reviewed those three key mistakes:

1. We too often associate trust with agreement.
2. We aren’t specific/explicit about our loyalty.
3. We mistake following with passivity.

In Part 2, I explored the first mistake – We often associate trust with agreement. This post deals with that second mistake.

1. We aren't specific/explicit about our loyalty.


It’s an interesting dynamic. Everyone wants and expects loyalty but, increasingly, are hesitant to give it. We are less loyal to our workplaces, our churches, our leaders.

The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania published work on the decline in loyalty in the workplace.

Consider some recent studies: MetLife’s 10th annual survey of employee benefits, trends and attitudes released in March puts employee loyalty at a seven-year low. One in three employees, the survey says, plans to leave his or her job by the end of the year. According to a 2011 report, 76% of full-time workers, while not actively looking for a new job, would leave their current workplace if the right opportunity came along. Other studies show that each year, the average company loses anywhere from 20% to 50% of its employee base.

Of course loyalty is on the downturn in churches as well. I’ve written more than once about the landmark Pew Research study on the increase of the “Nones”.

Generally, younger people – Millennials specifically – tend to be more stingy with their loyalty than their baby boomer parents. Many don’t even like to use the word.

Yet, loyalty is still a critical factor in the leader-follower relationship. Think about the issue first as a leader. I’m guessing you need to know that those you lead are loyal and that you work hard to earn that. But what about as a follower? How much work do you do on the other side? Thus follower mistake #2: We aren’t specific/explicit about our loyalty.

If you believe in a leader – whether a pastor, supervisor, lay minister or friend – how do they know? And you must go beyond a simple lack of absence.

Perhaps treat those you follow the way you would want to be treated by those who follow you. The best way is with presence and words. Specific encouragement, hand-written notes, emails, text messages. It’s the search for a variety of creative ways to say, “I believe in you.” It doesn’t take much to make a big impact on those you follow.

Next time, taking a look a mistake #3 – We mistake following with passivity.


Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It

Managing Your Boss (Harvard Business Review Classics)

The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow (BK Business)

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations

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  1. […] Part 3, the focus was the second mistake:  We aren’t specific/explicit about our […]