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Leading So People Will Follow

ISBN: 978-1-118-37987-5
224 pages
October 2012, Jossey-Bass
Leading So People Will Follow (111837987X) cover image


A unique take on leadership from a popular Forbes blogger and nationally-known leadership coach

Leading So People Will Follow explores the six leadership characteristics that inspire followers to fully support their leaders. Using Erika Andersen’s proven framework, new leaders and veterans alike have increased their capacity for leading in a way that creates loyalty, commitment and results. Step by step, Andersen lays out six key attributes (far-sightedness, passion, courage, wisdom, generosity, and trustworthiness) and gives leaders the tools for developing them. This innovative book offers a practical guide for building the skills to become a truly 'followable' leader.

  • Filled with examples from forward-thinking organizations such as Apple, NBC Universal, Union Square Hospitality Group, and MTV Networks
  • Maps out the six attributes of leadership
  • Includes a free online Followable Leader assessment
  • Author Erika Andersen is one of Forbes' most popular bloggers and coaches some of the most successful leaders in America

Using self-assessments, real-world examples, and concrete tools, Leading So People Will Follow helps build timeless core skills that work for leaders in any field.



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Table of Contents

1 The Longing for Good Leaders 1

Our Leader Longing Is Wired In ✴ Cracking the Code

2 Firesides and Folktales 7

Stories Hold the Map ✴ The Six Attributes ✴ Reflecting on Your Leadership ✴ Hearing the Story

3 Farsighted 21

See Possible Futures ✴ Articulate the Vision ✴ Model the Vision ✴ See Past Obstacles ✴ Invite Participation

4 Passionate 49

Commit Honestly ✴ Make a Clear Case Without Dogma ✴ Invite Real Dialogue ✴ Support Your Passion ✴ Remain Committed

5 Courageous 63

Make Tough Choices ✴ Risk Yourself for the Enterprise ✴ Do Personally Difficult Things ✴ Take Responsibility ✴ Admit Mistakes

6 Wise 83

Be Curious—Listen! ✴ Assess Objectively ✴ Learn from Your Experience ✴ See and Share Patterns ✴ Act Based on Your Sense of Right

7 Generous 105

Assume Positive Intent ✴ Share Power ✴ Share What You Know ✴ Freely Give Credit, Praise, and Reward ✴ Provide Necessary Resources for Success

8 Trustworthy 137

Tell the Truth ✴ Do What You Say You Will ✴ Keep Confidences ✴ Speak and Act for the Greater Good ✴ Get Results

9 Friends for the Journey 157

Leading as a Group Endeavor ✴ Wizards, Well-Wishers, and Wild Cards ✴ Finding Your Supporters

10 Your Own Tale 167

Reassess Yourself ✴ Make a Plan ✴ Rely on Your Wizards, Well-Wishers, and Wild Cards

Epilogue 173

Listening and Self-Talk for Leaders: Bonus Section 175

Acknowledgments 187

The Author 189

Index 191

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Author Information

Erika Andersen is founding partner of the consulting firm Proteus International and the author of Growing Great Employees: Turning Ordinary People into Extraordinary Performers and Being Strategic: Plan for Success, Out-Think Your Competitors, Stay Ahead of Change, which she adapted into a public television show, Being Strategic with Erika Andersen. She also blogs at blogs.forbes.com/erikaandersen and at erikaandersen.com.

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You recognize leadership when you see it, but many people tend to stumble when asked to come up with a definition. Not so for Andersen, who is a leadership coach and Forbes blogger. She couldn’t be more direct and succinct as she breaks down the definition of leadership into six components or, more apropos to her discussions, the six attributes of a good leader—far-sightedness, passion, courage, wisdom, generosity, and trustworthiness. Her point and approach are to teach how to be an effective leader, supported by her fundamental philosophy that “when someone who is put in the ‘leader’ seat doesn’t demonstrate the leadership qualities for which human beings have a kind of built-in radar, that person is unlikely to be effective as a leader.” To that end, she offers five “key behaviors” for each of the six leadership components. A book to read more than once and to consult many times.— Brad Hooper, Booklist Online

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Press Release

October 11, 2012
Leading so People Will Follow


By Erika Andersen

“A book to read more than once and to consult many times.”


The bookshelves bulge with advice on how to be an effective leader. Yet despite the plethora of advice, truly great leadership remains rare. Add today’s challenging economic environment and a brutal election season, and the need for truly effective business and political leaders has never been so desperately clear. From non-profits to corporations, local governments to the halls of Congress, Americans are in search of worthy leadership from those in charge.

In a new book, leadership coach and strategy expert Erika Andersen addresses this pervasive and pressing need from a new perspective – offering a strategic plan for how to lead so people will follow.

In LEADING SO PEOPLE WILL FOLLOW (Jossey-Bass; Oct. 9, 2012; hardcover), Andersen draws on the classic ‘leader story’ found in folktales the world over to reveal the six traits that followers instinctively look for in a leader: far-sighted, passionate, courageous, wise, generous, and trustworthy.

“Until recently in our history as a race, choosing a leader was a life or death decision,” writes Andersen. “And even though the stakes may not be as high today, we’re still wired to accept as leaders only those who line up with our centuries-old “map” of leadership attributes.”

Using present-day examples to illustrate her case – from organizations like NBCUniversal and Apple, to individuals such as famed restaurateur Danny Meyer and media innovator Nancy Tellem, Andersen offers insight into the specific characteristics required to become an accepted leader:

Far-sighted – We are drawn to leaders who articulate a possible future in a way that speaks to us and includes us.  Their focus on what’s possible – and how to get there – inspires hopefulness and a sense of purpose and draws out our best efforts.

Passionate – Passion in a leader is a pure, abiding commitment to something meaningful: a cause, a vision, or a set of principles. When we work with a passionate leader, we know that person will continue to be guided by his or her commitments regardless of setbacks and adversity.

Courageous – We look for courageous leaders who can make tough decisions; overcome fear and risk to act on them; and respond to the outcomes in a responsible way. If the leader isn’t courageous, people revert to self-protection; collaboration and innovation fade.

Wise – Wise leadership gives people the confidence that important decisions will be given the thought they deserve. Wise leaders feel like the safest possible harbor – especially in times of great change.

Generous – Generous leaders want us to thrive, and they support this intention through their words and actions. It creates a hopeful environment that feels rich even in hard times. Generous leaders make us feel capable, included, motivated to succeed, and generous ourselves.

Trustworthy – Trustworthy leaders create an environment of safety and calm, where we can put down roots and grow. When we trust a leader, much more of our energy is available to the organization. Trust is the essential bond between a true leader and his or her followers; it inspires creativity, hopefulness, and honesty.

“Learning these six attributes gives people a useful, practical framework for self-reflection and growth,” writes Andersen. “And it helps them to build better teams and organizations by becoming the leader who provides a strong, safe point around which people’s hopes and efforts can coalesce.”

Andersen also focuses on the importance of getting help along the way, encouraging leaders to seek out and call upon three key types of supporters: wizards, well-wishers, and wild cards. Wizards are people with unusual knowledge or insights essential to the leader’s success. Well-wishers support the leader’s highest intentions and believe in his or her potential. And wild cards are those people who have something the leader really needs – but that’s not visible until they’re on his or her side.

As Andersen writes, “Leadership really is all about the survival of the whole. Being an effective leader not only requires the support of others; it requires support from others.”

Rich with actionable advice and opportunities for honest reflection throughout each chapter, LEADING SO PEOPLE WILL FOLLOW offers the blueprint for developing the leadership attributes that elicit trust, loyalty, and commitment. What’s more, Andersen provides readers with exclusive online access to the Accepted Leader Self-assessment, so they can see where they excel and where they need to improve as leaders. 

In a time when we all need good and worthy leaders as never before, Andersen offers an essential playbook for becoming a truly followable leader.

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