Let’s Rumba: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

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Leaders are not born.

Leaders are made.

And there’s a multitude of training guides, courses, videos, and ebooks catering to the notion that we all somehow need to become leaders to succeed.

However, if we are all leaders, there won’t be anyone left to follow.

The powerful video below, published originally by Derek Sivers, reveals that the most effective leadership might be in… leading by following someone else.

Video Transcript:

If you’ve learned a lot about leadership and making a movement, then let’s watch a movement happen, start to finish, in under 3 minutes, and dissect some lessons.

  • 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.

The 2nd follower is a turning point: it’s proof the first has done well. Now it’s not a lone nut, and it’s not two nuts.

Three is a crowd and a crowd is news.

A movement must be public.

  • Make sure outsiders see more than just the leader.

Everyone needs to see the followers, because new followers emulate followers – not the leader.

Now here come 2 more, then 3 more.

Now we’ve got momentum. This is the tipping point! Now we’ve got a movement!

As more people jump in, it’s no longer risky.

If they were on the fence before, there’s no reason not to join now.

They won’t be ridiculed, they won’t stand out, and they will be part of the in-crowd, if they hurry.

Over the next minute you’ll see the rest who prefer to be part of the crowd, because eventually they’d be ridiculed for not joining.

And ladies and gentlemen that is how a movement is made!

Let’s recap what we learned

If you are a version of the shirtless dancing guy, all alone, remember the importance of nurturing your first few followers as equals, making everything clearly about the movement, not you.

Be public. Be easy to follow!

But the biggest lesson here – did you catch it?

Leadership is over-glorified.

Yes it started with the shirtless guy, and he’ll get all the credit, but you saw what really happened:

It was the first follower that transformed a lone nut into a leader.

There is no movement without the first follower.

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.

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34 Comments (click here to leave a comment)

  1. Ana, so many courses in how to be a leader. When I learned to follow, I learned to lead. Who do I follow? A person with good ideas, a rational mind, and a value system that puts the team first. Hey, I think I just described . . .you.

  2. I am that shirtless dancing guy! You are right Ana Leadership is over-glorified.
    Interesting post, I’ll have to check you out and see what I’ve been missing

  3. “stabilized consciousness” is also needed for a leader. This quality makes a normal guy to a leader. Really I enjoyed reading this article and video is too impressive :)

    • Ana Hoffman

      Not quite sure what “stabilized consciousness” is, Rahul, but yes, the video is great.

  4. Hilarious and a great way to use humor to make a point Ana. Loved it.

    “The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader.” literally laughed out loud at that one.

    Thanks for the laugh to start my day!

    • Ana Hoffman

      In a way, we are all lone nuts around here, Jon – that’s what people around us think when we tell them are have online businesses! lol

  5. Ana

    a leader needs guts, enough said and done, a leader must will always be strong enough to be different, to be uncomfortable to make their vision a reality

  6. Hey Ana,

    I took a course in Leadership (compulsory training for a business consultancy I used to work for) called the leading together programme (LTP) – the first thing they taught us was that as well as being a leader you also must understand how to be a good follower.

    Interesting to see you post something a little different & I thoroughly enjoyed the post, as always, great stuff!

    take care & very best wishes,

    • Ana Hoffman

      This certainly is off topic for me, Alan, but it was so good, I couldn’t resist.

      Sometimes being a follower takes more courage. After all laying down our pride is not natural for any of us.

  7. Hi Ana,

    Awesome post. I really like the video. And the funny things is that I wrote a post about the video last week :)

    I would probably not be the first follower of the shirtless dancing guy, but I get the point :)

    • Ana Hoffman

      Two great minds think alike, Jens…

      I most likely wouldn’t have joined him at all. What does it say about me?

  8. Loved the video and post Ana!

    I have seen this inspirational video earlier too, and each time I see it, it adds a new meaning to life :)

    I think you conveyed everything so well in this post about leadership and followers. The toughest part is getting started, though once that push is given – things do start rolling. The first follower is the actual one who has the courage to move ahead and create waves :)

    Thanks for sharing :)

    • Ana Hoffman

      Those first few readers are definitely the ones who make or break our businesses, Harleena.

      That’s why I am truly grateful for that handful of loyal readers (including you!), who made my blog into what it is today.

  9. Hi Ana,
    A few years ago, Did I owned four fashion shops for Girls clothes aged 15 – 25 years and I had a proverb;
    We do not follow the fashion, we lead the fashion.

    You must have the courage, if you are going to win and my stores were very successful and they are still after I sold the shops.

    • Ana Hoffman

      Love that, Lennart.

      Speaking of fashion, at some point of my life I realized that it’s not necessarily about what I was wearing, but rather how I was wearing it – attitude is at the heart of leadership.

  10. Interesting way of looking at it, Ana.

    Many movements probably started along a similar vein.
    Maybe it’s just a case of the ” Leader to be” putting themselves in the shoes of the/a follower. Or their potential followers.

    As far as “being the first follower” in the context of following a site, that probably is a big ‘ Jump into the unknown, in some ways. Though, as mentioned, it(he-she) may provide the catalyst that get’s the ball rolling.

    • Ana Hoffman

      I truly believe it takes one excited fan to give any business the initial push it needs, Daniel.

      Of course, the more influential the fan is, the greater the impact, but these are the details.

  11. Love it Ana. The video and the lesson that you clearly explained is point on accurate. I’ve see seen that video before and I get inspired every time I watch it.

  12. In the end it all comes down to two things:
    1) If you think it’s a good idea, act on it! You might be looking stupid in the beginning, but once the ball is rolling it pays off.
    2) Credit where credit’s due! If you think someone else has a good idea, don’t be afraid to speak up, admit he had a good idea and follow him.

    • Ana Hoffman

      For some reason (my guess is pride and self-preservation), it’s not so easy for us to admit that someone else had a great idea and jump with both feet to support them, Andy.

      But you are right, that’s where our growth as leaders comes in!

  13. I really like your thoughts on being the first follower.

    If you are a leader or trying to lead that first domino seems to be the hardest to knock down.

    great stuff… Thanks!

    • Ana Hoffman

      Getting the ball rolling is definitely the hardest step to take when starting a new business, Ryan.

      Being over that hump is a great feeling!

  14. Ankesh Kothari

    Thanks Ana. Very interesting insight. Every Don Quixote needs a Sancho Panza.

    Gives a new depth to the age old quote: Behind every successful man is a woman.

    What is interesting is this may show why partnerships have a higher rate of succeeding. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Bill Gates and Paul Allen. When you already start with a crowd, things become easier.

    • Stephen Jeske

      Actually, Ankesh I think that behind every successful blogger is a WPRoadie :)

      OK not yet… but maybe one day!

      Seriously though, Ana it’s a great post an hopefully gives people a different perspective. I read it with great interest, specially because most internet marketers/bloggers are looking to take front and center stage. I’m in the early stages of a startup that’s very content to help people do just that, be front and center.

      I think everyone has an important role to play, whether they are the lead act or just supporting characters.

      • Ana Hoffman

        Very clever comment, Stephen – of course, I had to check out your site to see what you were talking about!

        It seems like my blog somehow became the “leader” although it was never intended to be. I am with you: I am more than happy to be behind the camera rather than in front of it.

        • Stephen Jeske

          Ana I’ve been a lurker here for some time and I think that the reason your blog has become a leader is due to the consistency with which you continually post relevant content, and the value it provides.

          There is a lot of value in this blog, even if you have not been able to fully realize that in a monetary sense.