Leaders Share Their Biggest “Follower Challenges”

February 2, 2011 by Lisa Petrilli

Last night’s #LeadershipChat on Twitter revolved around the topic of The Difficult Follower and how to lead them.  Toward the end of the evening I asked the LeadershipChat community, “As leaders, what is the biggest challenge you face with your followers?”

I found the answers insightful, refreshing in their honesty, surprising and in some cases truly inspiring and wanted to share them with each of you. Please let me know in the comments what you think about these responses and if they resonate with you.

As leaders, what is the biggest challenge you face with your followers?”

sumnermusolf:  @LisaPetrilli – my biggest challenge: getting organized followers to actually lead.

4thGear:  @LisaPetrilli Good Q Lisa – leadrs who care if they r difficult to follow usually aren’t-ones not looking back are the issue

Note_to_CMO:  Biggest challenge is ensuring everyone stays “at cause” for brand/co. Easy to fall off when you feel disconnected.

samfiorella:  Biggest Challenge I face with my followers: ME.  I honestly believe that 90% of challenges w/followers are rooted in Leader.

mikecassidyAZ:  @lisapetrilli A lot of it all falls back to trust and shared values and shared vision

iannarino:  @LisaPetrilli Cynicism. Mostly young people won’t give themselves over to something to be great, older people are often too jaded

ddcronkh:  @LisaPetrilli Getting them to realize that it’s about something larger than just themselves. Success is a team exercise.

graingered:  @JDEbberly @LisaPetrilli A: Nurturing their implicit understanding that they arent followers at all but rather tacit leaders

CASUDI:  Getting everyone on the team to be self motivated as well as good followers ~ challenge

tomschimmer:  Biggest challenge is sustainability/going 2 scale. It’s easy 2 B excited early on…what happens when we face an obstacle?

JanelleBowden:  Building trust

loismelbourne:  Toughest job to help mgrs understand the diff between leadership and managment

joesabado:  That a follower is difficult is subjective from a leader’s perspective. A leader must look at the strengths of a follower.

And my favorite response because of the way it lifted me…

greghartle:   Biggest challenge: Tapping into the extraordinary power lying dormant within yourself and others

What do you think? Do these resonate with you? Is something glaringly missing? Please share your own experiences, insights and follower challenges in the comments so we’ll all be able to learn from them – I appreciate hearing from you! 

You can find me on Twitter at @LisaPetrilli and on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/lisapetrilli. I look forward to seeing you there!You can also eMail me anytime at [email protected]

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Photo is Who Knows What Tomorrow Brings? by Tony the Misfit.



  1. Great chat again last night lisa – as always. Sorry I missed your question above.

    I think the biggets challenge many leaders face with followers (myself included) is letting go of things that aren’t worth measuring.

    More and more I see leaders piling on responsibilities and objectives when they should be stripping away things and allowing their people to focus on just a few core objectives.
    Sean McGinnis´s last blog post ..Is Google Eating Itself

    • Thanks, Sean!

      What a great addition. I think another way to say what you’re talking about is limiting complexity. I’ve seen leaders unknowingly add complexity and make their team’s job so much more difficult. You’re right about stripping away and focusing on core objectives – it greatly increases your chances of meeting those objectives!

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, Sean!