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