Build Followers, Not Fans

Build Followers, Not Fans

April 8, 2019

The following was taken from What Makes a Leader Great by Russ Crosson, Executive Vice President and Chief Mission Officer of Blue Trust.

A common challenge for a leader of an organization or a team is how to handle fans versus followers. Fans are people who are excited or stirred to action. They may be inspired by the leader, but they never move to the position of followers. Fans are enthusiastic and challenged by the leader’s vision, but they have not made the switch to being supporters and advocates of the mission. The fire isn’t burning deeply within them, and their dedication to the mission is at a superficial level.

Followers, by definition, are people who come behind the leader and choose to be led by the leader. These people are pursuing, chasing, and moving in the same direction as the leader toward something bigger than all of them. True followers are disciples, adherents, and imitators – not of the leader, but of the mission. They are “next in line” in the pursuit of the entity’s or organization’s mission. They are in step with the leader and “going with” him or her, which implies the followers are seeking what the leader is.

Fans only follow the leader; followers follow the mission.

A great orator of a large church may not be able to be replaced by a similarly skilled individual. But if the leader has really led the church in the right way, the mission will carry on when he/she is no longer in the role. A great CEO will make sure the company is in good hands and continues undeterred when he/she will no longer be in an active role. To make sure the mission continues, it’s incumbent that we realize leadership is not about you or me. It’s about those who are following us. To understand this principle well, we have to come to the conclusion that we have only been given a short amount of time on this earth to make our lives count. We must realize we’re simply caretakers and stewards of the entities we’re leading—church, family, ministry, business—during our limited time on the “stage of action.”

The real question is: How will we impact the lives of those around us in a positive way and encourage the people who make up the next generation to be followers of the mission, and not just fans?

To order a copy of Russ Crosson’s book, What Makes a Leader Great, please contact your Blue Trust advisor by calling 800.987.2987 or emailing

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