The Key to Becoming a Great Leader (And It’s Not What You Think)

Aug 16, 2013 - Joe Matar

Everybody talks about the attributes of a great leader, but great leaders wouldn’t exist without great followers. Ironically, you can’t be a leader until you’ve mastered the art of following.

So do you know what makes a great follower? Understand this, and you’ll understand both how to be a better follower and how to draw them.

To help solidify the image of a great follower, let’s examine what one looks like. Follow these steps to become the kind of follower any blogger or business wants:

1. Pay attention

Listening is the building block of any good relationship, whether it’s a sales manager and employee relationship or the relationship a blogger has with their community. So to become a good follower, listen to the people you’re connected with online.

Regularly read updates in your streams, and work to remember concerns or insights others share. Over time, you’ll get to know the people you follow and will strengthen connections.

2. Be responsive

Join conversations you find interesting, whether on social media channels or on blogs. Bloggers notice consistent commenters, so when you regularly leave genuine, thoughtful feedback, you invite a relationship.

Likewise, when you interact with other users on Facebook or Twitter, you create an online community. Reply to someone’s tweet or link with a meaningful response. The people you’re following will notice.

3. Share content

Everybody appreciates followers who promote their content. When someone posts something you like, share it and link back to the original source. On Twitter, retweet helpful links. On Facebook, share someone’s blog post or photo.

By promoting someone else’s work, you’re being the kind of follower everyone wants. What’s more, you’re acting as a resource, which makes you someone others want to follow.

4. Like content

From liking Facebook posts to Instagram photos, there are more ways than ever to let someone know you appreciate their content. Liking someone’s content is a simple yet meaningful way to encourage him or her and to build community.

5. Be genuine

Nothing kills community faster than lack of authenticity. When bloggers or social media users smell a fake, they run the other way. So above all else, aim for a genuine voice. Post and respond in a way that is true to who you are.

So once you’re ready to become a great leader, how do you draw quality followers?

Part of drawing good followers comes down to luck; helpful people start following you and respond to your content without you seeking them out. But the other part of drawing good followers comes down to habits.

What kind of message are you putting forth online? What sort of people respond to what you write? With that in mind, adapt these habits to cultivate and draw the best kind of audience:

1. Be authentic

Authenticity invites authenticity, so when you’re the kind of blogger or business that speaks genuinely and consistently, you automatically draw readers who behave the same way. Avoid pretense, admit what you don't know and build credibility with your fans.

2. Create quality content

The surest way to draw good followers is to create quality content—the kind that stands out from the crowd. Aim to create top-notch articles and photography and you set yourself up to draw interested fans.

3. Be a good follower

If the above list describing good followers does nothing else, it should show that loyal fans are assets for anyone publishing content online. When you notice someone is consistently supporting your brand on social networks and blogs, you’re more likely to pay attention to him or her—and the same goes for brands that see you responding to them. So to draw more loyal fans, be one. Other bloggers can become your greatest online allies.

4. Be thankful

If you want to encourage loyal followers, pay attention to the ones you have. When someone promotes your content, thank him or her. Respond to comments on your blog. Notice the followers who are talking about you on social networks. By being the kind of content creator who is thankful and responsive, you invite great followers.

 Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, a Chicago Web design firm providing specialized SEO, Web development and other online marketing services. Follow Straight North on Twitter and Facebook.