ntrepreneurship is often associated with bold leadership, trailblazing, and steely determination in adversity.

While these attributes are undeniably crucial for success, what if the path to creating a movement or launching an idea started with a different kind of courage that involves being the first to follow rather than the first to lead?

Going Against the Grain of Leadership

In his enlightening TED talk, Derek Sivers sheds light on a perspective that should be mentioned in business manifestos and startup biographies.

He posits that the real catalyst for change is the often-forgotten role of the "first follower." Sivers' talk challenges the popular notion of leadership as the significant driver of movements and encourages a deeper understanding of the collective power within community movements.

Leadership, as he eloquently notes, is over-glorified. The first follower, in many ways, is the one who transforms the lonely leader into a movement.

The first follower, motivated solely by the action's merits, is the one who validates the leader's vision and, in doing so, inspires others to join in. 

Finding the 'Lone Nut' in Your Field

The courage to be a lone nut is where many movements find their seeds. It's not about being the loudest or the most charismatic; it's about being the first to choose the path others are reluctant to take.

As Sivers metaphorically puts it, the lone nut may risk ridicule, but this individual also possesses the courage to showcase the new dance.

When you identify a lone nut, it's an opportunity for you to display your courage. By being the first follower, you validate the lone nut's initiative. This validation is akin to giving the lone nut a collective voice, telling the world, "Hey, maybe something is exciting happening here."

Showing the Courage to Be the First

Starting a movement is inextricably tied to risk-taking. It requires the courage to stand out, and the dilution of the self-promoter is pivotal. In a sea of voices clamouring for visibility, the individual who solidly gets behind an unconventional yet compelling idea is the one who ignites a spark.

Sivers' philosophy on movement creation isn't about undermining leaders but demystifying the process of initiating change. He gives credit to those who aren't afraid to stand alone and those who recognize the value of joining a seemingly unconventional path.

Why the First Follower is the Real Leader

The first follower plays a crucial role by making the lone nut feel less lonesome. They serve as an example for others, indicating that aligning with an initiative that might still need to enjoy widespread acceptance or understanding is okay.

The first follower doesn't join in out of blind admiration for the leader; the idea compels them. In their joining, they validate the movement, opening the door for more followers. According to Sivers, this process isn't just a welcome sign for newcomers; it's an invitation.

Inspiring Others to Be Part of the Movement

Once a movement gains momentum, it's like wildfire. This contagion of participation isn't just about people buying into an idea; it's about people buying into the sense of community the movement forms.

After the initial follower, the ensuing ones build the tribe of believers.

Sivers' talk isn't just about macro-level movements. It is incredibly relatable to the entrepreneurial landscape. It tells us that significant, sweeping changes in the world start with one person's bravery and the support of a few select believers.

The Power of Community and Collective Action

The beauty of Sivers' narrative is how it dignifies community and collective action. While many are keen to stand in the limelight and be lauded for their vision, the true architects of movements are those who support, participate, and spread the message. 

By shedding light on the value of community and followership, Sivers redefines the narrative on initiative and courage.

A movement is not just a collection of people following a leader; it is about gathering like-minded individuals courageous enough to deviate from the norm and believe in an alternative, collective vision.

A Call to Action for Today's Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs and leaders of today have the enormous responsibility of setting the right tone for their movements. By recognizing the integral role of the first follower and understanding the value of community, the potential for seeding powerful, lasting changes is tremendous.

Derek Sivers' talk cuts through the noise, reminding us that leadership isn't just about setting the path but creating an environment where others can walk by our side. It's a profound perspective that can redefine how we approach movements, startups, and leadership in the 21st century.

Starting a movement involves an interplay of courage, community, and the recognition that the first follower is as important as—and sometimes more than—the leader. It's an antidote to the cult of personality that often surrounds entrepreneurship.

By cultivating an environment that celebrates and encourages followership and community, we can create movements that are not just about individual success but about cultural and societal shifts that benefit everyone.

Ultimately, creating a movement isn't a solitary act; it's a collaborative one. It begins with having the courage to stand alone but is fueled by the collective power of a tribe that shares your vision.

In a world where leaders are celebrated, it's comforting to note that the true change-makers are those who find the courage to follow—and to bring others along with them on the dance floor of innovation.

At certain stages of life, it's natural to question the direction you've chosen and feel uncertain about your progress. However, it's important to remember that just because your journey may differ from others, it doesn't mean you're any less successful.

Each person's path is unique, and it's up to you to determine what success means to you and how to achieve it in your way.

With Education Next, we have taken a different path to learning and living; we have yet to take the traditional route. But I love everything; it is more than just making the idea profitable. It's living the deep urge to solve a more significant problem 

Thank you to my friend Andreas Wil Gerdes, who shared this video with me. 

Mar 24, 2024
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