5 Ways to Lose your Followers: Making Bad Leadership Good

Leadership is a dynamic relationship between followers and leaders.  Without followers you cannot lead.  A follower can decide at any time for any number of reasons not to follow the leader.  When that happens the leader’s duty is over.  Whether it’s formal or informal – in a business or social setting, the leader without followers loses status and followers become disinterested.  We are seeing this unfold on the world stage today as business and political leaders fail to lead.  Bad leaders are ineffective because they destroy the bond with their followers.

Leadership is ability of one individual to exercise influence over a group of people.  The ability to influence can be related to power and authority.  Power relationships are formed formally and informally through relationships and they are inextricably tied together.  As a follower your degree of choice can cause tight or lose bonds with your leader.  Choosing to follow someone willingly because you like them, like a mentor is the strongest form of leadership. When you are required to follow someone because they have direct authority over you or because they have greater power than you, and it is coercive or abusive – that is the weakest form of leadership/followership. 

Here are five ways to lose your followership and your ability to lead:

  1. Inability to share the credit for work that is done by others.  Have you ever worked on a team where the leader presented the final product and took all the credit? Can you think of examples of when this happens how it makes team members feel?  Can you think of a business or political leader who has done this well?
  2. Need to control and failure to delegate. Hiring an expert, then failing to let them do their job is a great example of this.  Micromanaging people that you’ve retained to do a job can lead to mistrust.  Once you lose trust, you may lose your followers.
  3. Lack of respect/civility, talking over people, not following agreed upon process, name calling. This is flat out bad behavior that will run people away from you, not to you. This makes people feel bad and they will leave your influence as soon as they are able.
  4. Failure to compromise.  Sticking to a rigid philosophy or manner of doing things even when others around you urge you to change will cause a leadership crisis and a fleeing of followers.
  5. Punishing all employees because the organization is not managing well.  One size does not fit all.  Leaders have to take the time to discover why things go wrong and avoid punishments.  Find the perpetrator and take appropriate actions.  Punishment is a form of coercive leadership.
  6. Unethical and immoral behavior.  Out of control behavior in one’s personal life will drive people away who have moral standards of conduct.  Although the barometer of what constitutes moral and acceptable behavior has evolved somewhat, most people agree that cheating, lying, and stealing are immoral acts.  Followers won’t want the association or the attention with this kind of leader.
  7. Failure to admit mistakes; blames others; lack of accountability. Leaders who practice “the buck stops here” philosophy will always attract followers and admirers.  Failing to admit mistakes makes leaders look small and insincere and become an instant way to lose credibility.


Leaders attract and retain followers when they articulate a clear vision, are positive role models.  Effective leaders listen, care for and engage their followers. They share power and decision making and delegate responsibility with authority.  The hold themselves accountable for the actions of their followers and operate with the highest degree of integrity.

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