Why Do People Choose to Follow a Great Leader?

I recently had an opportunity to tour the Mighty 8th Air Force Museum in Pooler, Georgia. At one stage of the tour, I joined the Mission Experience exhibit. Through the use of lighting, sound, and video, the exhibit creates a simulation of serving as a crew member on board a B-17. The docent in theĀ  exhibit was a 92 year old veteran who served as a ball turret gunner on one of these Flying Fortresses. As he spoke about his experiences, I was struck by his description of their pilot; the leader of the crew.

Our docent told us how the crew captain was also the youngest member of the crew, a 19 year old officer charged with taking his crew members into harm’s way and returning them safely to base. He spoke of how the crew would follow this man anywhere; how they trusted him completely to do what was best for the entire crew.

His story reminded me of another story I’d read about the Marines who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. Their squad leader was a sergeant who told them that if they followed him, he would do all he could to get them home safely.

As I thought about both of these leaders, I was struck by the similarity. Great Leaders genuinely care for those who follow them. Great Leaders do all they can to avoid needlessly putting their followers at risk; and, when putting them at risk is unavoidable, they do all they can to lead them through the experience safely and prevent needless injury. Preventing injury does not refer solely to physical injury, but to mental, emotional, spiritual, and career health as well. Great Leaders protect their followers from being harmed as a result of their choice to follow.

Why do people choose to follow Great Leaders? Because they trust them and know that those Great Leaders will do everything possible to advance them, to promote them, to help them grow, and to do everything possible to shield them from harm.

Have you had the privilege of knowing a Great Leader who exemplified these traits? Click comment and share your story.

Tom Hoisington is a speaker, trainer, and author whose goal is to provide leaders and potential leaders with tools that empower them to build teams that are creative and cost effective along with a clearer understanding of how personality types interact within those teams. He can be contacted at tom.hoisington@eagleoneresources.com

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