Making a Special Connection with Followers


Immediately after the first 2012 Republican Presidential Debate in Florida, Former Governor Mitt Rommey released his 2010 tax statement. However, Rommey’s wealth did surprise most people.  Some individuals probably harbored class envy of him. Yet, I was also amazed at the other presidential candidates’ great fortunes in comparison to most Americans. Let’s go deeper. 

 How can leaders build a connection with their followers who are well below them economically?  For example, GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney isn’t just in the top 1% of America’s highest income earners; he is at least at the top .0006% based on his 2010 tax returns.  According to AP reporter Connie Cass, adding up the wealth of the last eight presidents from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama wouldn’t  equal Rommey’s wealth.  It’s also about perspective.  Among the ultra-wealthy in the world, Rommey is not among the rich elite.  Yet, this discussion is very interesting since the U.S. President is seen as a representative of all citizens.

Here’s a look at some of the 2012 Republican Presidential Candidates’ worth: Mitt Rommey’s worth $85-264 million, Jon Huntsman’s $16-72 million; Newt Gingrich’s $7-31 million; Ron Paul’s $2.4 – 5.4 million, Rick Santorum’s $1-3 million, and Rick Perry’s $1-2.5 million.  Even President Barack Obama, a member of the Democratic Party, is not far behind with a net worth of $2.8-11.8 million.  One of the greatest assets of effective leaders is making a connection with followers. 

Great wealth may be problematic to many people who want to show they understand the common man.  However, this isn’t always the case.  For example, some former U.S. Presidents with great wealth made a connection with followers such as Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.  Leaders want to have good followers championing their cause.  Presidential candidates are no exceptions.  Rommey, like most wealth people, may have some connection problems.   Many people undermine the importance of followership. They shouldn’t.

Followership is underrated. Yet, effective leaders can’t afford to not have stellar followership.  Followership can be defined as ‘the ability to effectively follow the directives and support the efforts of a leader to maximize a structured organization.’  Kent Bjugstad, Comcast Spotlight, Elizabeth Thach, Karen Thompson, and Alan Morris, followership experts, outlined the problems associated with followership: “The assumption that good followership is simply doing what one is told, and that effective task accomplishment is the result of good leadership, doesn’t amplify the merits of the follower role.”  Therefore, leaders cannot afford to underestimate this concept.

Connecting with followers is vital.  Rommey, like other leaders, must bridge this gap.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the typical household worth is approximately $120,300.  That means Rommey is 1,000 times richer than most American citizens. Fred Fiedler, a leadership researcher, noted that a leader’s personality can determine how he or she will be an effective leader.

Gareth Jones and Jennifer George, authors of Contemporary Management, further noted the critical needs for effective leader-follower relationships: “Situations are more favorable for leading when leader-member relations are good.”   Therefore, connecting with followers is an important goal for most leaders.

Discuss how leaders effectively connect with their followers.

© 2012 by Daryl D. Green                                    


10 thoughts on “Making a Special Connection with Followers

  1. Followership is built by great leaders. The leader must understand followership and even practice followership in certain situations. Followership is built when a leader earns respect. To earn the respect of the people they are leading is a hard task to complete, but it can be done by a good attitude, good work ethic, solid and sound decision making, and caring for people. By doing these tasks a leader will create buy-in, positive attitudes, positive work environment and good followers. The best leader is one who realizes the importance of focusing upon followers is really concerned with getting their buy-in and liberating their enthusiasm, generating a wave of energy and active participation in making things happen (Staub II, 1996).”

    Staub II, R.E. (1996). The heart of leadership: 12 practices of courageous leaders. Provo, Utah: Executive Excellence Publishing.

  2. What does it mean to be a leader? ” For many people , leadership stems from a desire to make a difference in the lives of others and the world. It means believing in yourself and those you work with, loving what you do, and infusing others with energy and enthusiasm to accomplish a vision for a better future” (Daft, 2011, p4). I believe a leader has to be passionate about what they do. This to me is the most important part about being a leader. If you don’t believe in what you preach, no one will listen. I believe that is what President Obama had going for him in the last elections. He was passionate about making this world a better place, people followed him because of his ability to bring his passion to them.

    Daft, R. L. (2011). Leadership. N/A: South-Western Cengage Learning.

    • I really liked your post about how a leader must be motivated. I will offer this about leadership. A leader must be someone with the desire to lead. I believe that the motivation, enthusiasm, and leadership stems from ones desire to lead and willingness to learn. A person does not become a leader by virtue of the possession of some combination of traits (Kirkpatrick & Locke, 1991). This quote is exactly why I think that leadership, while being a learned behavior, is only going to be as effective as someone’s desire to lead. The desire, coupled with learned traits, is what helps to create great leaders.

      Kirkpatrick, S., & Locke, E. (1991). Leadership: Do traits matter. The executive, 5(2), 48.

  3. Traits of a leader are very important. It is crucial to understand that leadership traits are learned from our experiences, values, and culture. I like to think of leadership as a process that starts with desire. After the desire to lead is present, leaders must figure out how to get their organizations objectives completed. There are three ways which I think will help leaders achieve these goals. Three leadership traits that must be present are confidence, clarity, and care (Farrell, 2011). The leader must be viewed as someone who knows where he is taking the organization. Leader must be consistent and concise about their plan to get there, and a leader must care about people. There are several names for these traits but I like to think of it as simple as possible.

    Farrell, R. (2011, August 03). Cnn living. Retrieved from

  4. I believe that it is highly important for leaders to connect with followers to obtain followership. This goes along with achieving buy-in from team members. The principle even has biblical implications, in that biblical figures such as Moses and Jesus had to either present some awe-inspiring miracle to those they were leading or impart some truth in them that would bring them back to earth. In most cases, followers look for something that they can relate to in determining how receptive they will be to a leader. One thing that I feel that the Obama campaign did better than the opposing party was establishing that relationship through a narrative, as well as through the use of new media (to connect with the younger generation). Barack Obama’s story always reiterated the HUMBLE beginnings of the son of a Kenyan father and a mother from Kansas who worked his way through school. The fact that his story could only be possible in the United States was innately American, and the rest is history.

    The White House. Retrieved from

    • Chris,


      Do you think that since President Obama has become a millionaire (departing from his humble beginnings) that he is now out of touch with the common man?

      Professor Green

  5. While that may be true, I don’t think that having accumulated wealth has taken him too far away from his humble beginnings. When I see the policies that are being worked on and the hear him address the nation, I truly believe that he is trying to work for all of the American people with the hand that he has been dealt. Having a grassroots-centered campaign, being a family man, and regularly keeping an ear to what citizens are saying (through referencing them in letters read on-air) help to maintain some grounding. Also, having a wife from the South-side of Chicago and her mother living in the White House with you, can’t help but serve as reminders that you haven’t always been able to live like this.
    An article in the Economist states: “The first lady said Obama’s upbringing has allowed him to identify with the stories of thousands of Americans who write to the president about their situations and speak with him personally at events around the county. She said those stories motivate him and influence his decisions in office.”

    Reference: Dwyer, Devin (2011, September 30). Michelle Obama on President’s Upbringing: He Knows Economic Struggles. Retrieved from

  6. I always enjoy hearing about executives and CEOs that frequently “drop in” to their company’s locations or host “town hall” type meetings and actually attend to hear what their employees’ concerns are or what they have to say. I think that leaders that engage in this type of activity are demonstrating that they actually care about their employees and their organization. Jack Welch, for example, former CEO of General Electric, would hold town hall meetings so that he would be aware of what was going on in the company. Although he made it quite apparent that he expected employees’ dedication and hard work in their jobs, he also made it clear that he cared about their wellbeing as well. Doing this, in my opinion, helps bridge the gap between the executive/leader’s world and their followers.

    Kotler, P., & Keller, K. L. (2012). Marketing management. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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