signs its time unfollow

7 Signs It’s Time to Un-Follow a Leader

Social media changed the meaning of words like “follow” and “leader.” Back before social media, a leader was someone who was in a position of leadership. They were “in charge” and the people who joined them in their effort were “followers.”

In the old sense of the word, we give our best energy to people we admire pursuing a purpose we desire.  When the person or the purpose fail to measure up, our energy drains and our enthusiasm wanes. Often we find the person only says they’re pursuing our objective to manipulate us. As Simon Sinek said in Start with Why, we can only inspire or manipulate.

I’m not much of a “follower.”  I consider all of my influence something to be given. So I prefer to join rather than follow. And I un-join if I find the purpose or the person to be different than what I thought. For more on this, check out Of Followers and Leaders.

So here is a short checklist of behaviors that I use for when it’s time to un-follow a leader.

1. When I realize they’re never wrong.

We’re all at the center of our own universe, but people in positions of authority have the ability to make others orbit them. None of us wants to be the planet.

We’re all at the center of our own universe, but people in positions of authority have the ability to make others orbit them. None of us wants to be the planet.

2. When I notice they never get the short end of the stick.

Who you serve is a dead giveaway. It’s hard for a person to have my best interests as their core purpose if they make 300 times more money than I do. Couldn’t they just make 10 times as much and give someone else the other 290 jobs?

3. When I hear the word “but” regularly.

“Yes, but…” Do your leaders always have an excuse? Is there always some extenuating circumstance? Always?

4. When they seem to spend a lot of energy managing perceptions.

What are they most concerned about when they screw up? Is it how it looks or what the impact was? Do they spend their best energy restoring the situation or trying to influence perceptions?

What are they most concerned about when they screw up? Is it how it looks or what the impact was?

5. When I notice that what they hold on to at all costs is more valuable to them than it is to “us.” 

Seth Godin wrote a great post here about how much are you willing to spend on shortcuts? Is your leader more interested in some things that seem to be of no value to the organization?

6. When the answer to every question and the solution to every problem never seems to inconvenience them.

Problems show us the core values of others.  Many times our leaders have the ability to solve problems but they don’t have the energy or commitment.

7. When I feel like I’m not a part of the inner circle. 

Even for political candidates and large organizational leaders, the biggest “inner circle” is the group of people who benefit most from choices, policies and actions. Do you always seem to be in the group of people who have to accept the compromise? Do you always feel like the leader has a favored group?

In a way, these behaviors betray the stated purpose of a leader and show their true core purpose.

We look to associate ourselves with people who demonstrate they truly are (their character) someone we would like to be an associate. We look for people who do what we would do if we were in their position.

[Tweet “When you become the person you would follow, then you become character-based leader.”]

When you become the person you would follow, then you become character-based leader. Spend your best energy becoming the person we would like to follow too!

One caveat: Before you un-follow everyone, try objectively to understand them. It is very easy to vilify people we don’t know or understand.  Remember, for example with political leaders, the office commands authority. We must respect and preserve authority that maintains order and achieves objectives. But we can still spend our best energy associating with people we admire pursuing a purpose we desire.

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Image credit: birdigol / 123RF Stock Photo

Mike is the founder of the Lead Change Group. Known nationally as a character-based leadership coach and committed leader, Mike’s passion is mobilizing people and communities to apply character-based leadership to make a positive difference.

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