The dance of leadership

What does it take to create a trend, a movement, a runaway success? Leaders? Followers? Or someone in between? An important question for creatives, marketers and others who try to harness the wildfire properties of the Internet.

Along comes Derek Sivers, a musician who founded CD Baby, which became the largest seller of independent music on the web. From this three-minute video clip he calls “Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy,” Sivers has extracted several lessons in inspiration and group-think that apply to artists as well as executives.

DerekSiversThe first is obvious. The second is amazing, maybe even a little unsettling.

We need leaders. But we might need what Sivers calls the first follower even more.

It takes guts to be a leader. But it also takes guts to be a follower (just ask the apostles). The dancing guy has no effect on the people around him except to provide mild amusement . . . until a second person overcomes his aversion to risk and gets up to dance. And then a third, and then. . . .

“The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader,” Sivers says, echoing Malcolm Gladwell’s contention that any viral movement is spread not by the creator but by people he calls mavens–those with both the contacts and the social standing to gain the attention of followers. It’s those first followers who use their influence to help the movement achieve critical mass–or to use Gladwell’s term, the tipping point.

“We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective,” Sivers says. “The best way to make a movement . . . is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.”