The First Follower Role in Diffusion of Innovations: Implications for Followership Development


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The follower’s role is vital in the leadership process because one cannot exist without the other (Alegbeleye & Kaufman, 2019; Chaleff, 2008). The role followers play can be related to causal agents because they influence leaders’ attitudes, behaviors, and organizational outcomes (Ete et al., 2007). The “first follower” concept originated from the TED2010 talk by Derek Sivers on “how to start a movement” (Sivers, 2010). The video of a dancing guy used for the presentation depicted a movement, and other followers joined the movement because of the first follower’s action. According to Sivers (2010), a first follower is brave and plays a crucial role in the movement. The first follower can be linked with the innovator in the Rogers (2003) adopter categories. As gatekeepers, the innovators are willing to express new ideas, they are venturesome, and they bring innovations from outside the system (Sahin, 2006). The first follower attribute of trying things first and having a unique idea makes others emulate followers and shows other followers how to follow (Sivers, 2010). Thus, the process of social influence the first follower has on other followers goes along with the attributes and influence of a leader. If adopted by organization leaders, leadership educators, and consultants, the principle of the first follower will help to increase efficiencies and improve productivity through the first follower teaching others.