Like Attracts Like: Why Leaders Attract Certain Followers

Back on November 16, 2014, I came across an article written by Brigette Hyacinth on LinkedIn that caught my eye: “Leaders: Beware of Followers.”  In her article, she talked about how every Leader needs Followers and that the conclusion of her research into the subject lead her to categorize 7 types of Followers:

1) Sycophants – The flatterers, “yes people”. They cannot be relied upon to give critical feedback if the leader is heading in a direction that conflict with the purpose or values of the organization. They never point out problems, raise objections; they will avoid any resistance and will defer to the leader. 

2) Critics – The opposition. The detractor’s goal is to challenge and question the leader’s every behavior and policy. They can be classified as disgruntled, perhaps for some reason they were not recognized, awarded a promotion they felt they deserved.

3) Realists provide constructive critical thinking and interact with the group and the leader. If they agree with the current course of action, they will back the leader 100%. Alternatively, if they disagree, they will challenge the leader, offering constructive alternatives to help the leader and organization achieve their aims. 

4) Loyalists – The genuine supporters. They are highly engaged and work hard to support the leader. Although you can count on Loyalists to get the job done, due to their biased admiration for the leader, they can provide the leader with misguided feedback in their assessment of his / her talents and abilities.

5) Traitors – The silent haters and conspirators. They have strong negative emotional feelings about the leader and secretly work to undermine him/her.

6) Spectators – The observers. They just work for their salary and don’t get involved. They are disengaged with the organization or task and hold a position of neutrality about the leader. 

7) Opportunists -The freebooters. They have a price and can easily be bought. They like to be close to the powerful and their allegiance is to whoever is on top at the moment. Opportunists do everything openly to get noticed and love to be rewarded. They see the leader as a means to an end (promotion).

And it got me thinking…

How many Leaders actually stop to think that their personality and actions are attracting these types of Followers to them?

In my opinion….”Like attracts like.”

When they start having problems with employees, Managers automatically say “they have an attitude problem,” “they aren’t applying themselves,” or “they just don’t listen.”  It becomes a “pass the buck” blame game and this has always seemed to be acceptable in the workplace.

People in management positions are held to a higher regard and therefore viewed as infallible.  Yet, managers are also tasked with creating a working environment with their employees…they have to guide and motivate them.  So, if a manager is having issues within his ranks, shouldn’t he/she include themselves in the “cause”?

So, let’s breakdown these 7 types of Followers to explore some hard questions about your Leadership style that may be attracting them:

1) Sycophants – The “yes people”.  

Do you tend to seek the counsel of those employees that always agree with you and carry out your directives?  Do you put down and speak negatively about those that are “always challenging” you instead of taking time to listen to what they have to say?  Do you always have to be right?  Do you always have to be the one with the right answer?

2) Critics – Those that challenge and question the leader’s every behavior and policy.

Do you quote the handbook all the time? Do you let some employees “get away with” some things but not others?  Do you yourself feel that you don’t have to follow the same rules as your employees?  Have you ever took the time to compliment or publicly recognize the efforts of your employees or do you think its just “their job”?

3) Realists provide constructive critical thinking and interact with the group and the leader.

Do you treat your employees as “team members” where you encourage communication and exchange of ideas?  Do you hold regular department meetings? Do you challenge your employees to “think outside the box” and come up with new procedures or projects?

4) Loyalists – The “genuine supporters.

Are you your employees’ Manager or their Friend?  Is being accepted by your employees mean more to you than having to criticize or discipline them when needed or when it can help their personal growth?

5) Traitors – Those that have strong negative emotional feelings about the leader and secretly work to undermine him/ her.

Do you take credit for others achievements because they work for you?  Have you ever dismissed an idea presented by one of your employees but later used it and didn’t give them credit for it?  Do you know how to do the job of each of the employees you manage or do you direct them based on your outside experience or personal opinions?  Do you feel that the rules you impose on your employees don’t apply to you as the manager because you have more responsibility?

6) Spectators – Those only engaged to do their job and nothing more.

Do you have regular meetings with your employees one-on-one to discuss goals and goal setting or do you feel they should approach you about that?  Do you encourage cross-training for an employee’s growth or focus only on the job they are being paid to carry out?  Are you yourself disgruntled and doing your job to simply collect a paycheck?

7) Opportunists –Those that do everything openly to get noticed and love to be rewarded.

Do you publicly acknowledge or reward (maybe with time off) your employees during different stages of a project rather than after its complete?  Do you talk to your employees about how much time you spend updating the boss during a project?  Do you jump in and help on a project, working along side them, or do you only make the time when the boss comes to visit and starts asking questions?

If you talk to any Career or Life Coach, they will tell you that before you can change the environment around you – you have to change yourself: how you interact with others, how you view the situation and yourself as a result, and how you respond to your environment.  So, if a manager feels he/she keeps having to deal with the same type of employees or loosing employees that it may be time to stop and take a look at themselves.  Which category do you think you fall into based on the type of employees you attract to you?  There is nothing to feel ashamed of in doing so – we all go through growth changes as we evolve in our careers and move onto more responsibility.

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