“Would you follow this person over a hill?”

Seems like a fairly mundane question, but when I talk to people about the extent to which they would follow their leader – even when unfamiliar with the path or journey themselves – the responses are telling.

How would your own team respond? Remember, without “followership,” your “leadership” does not exist. Are your employees confident and comfortable supporting you? Are you consistent and predictable? Are you reliable and mature?


For leaders to “have” control, they first have to “be” in control – of themselves. Moodiness, emotional immaturity and erratic behavior lead to chaos. And it’s costly, too. Volatility in a leader leads to a loss of productivity, as followers squander time and negative energy, constantly evaluating and re-adjusting to an unpredictable and often fearful, environment.


On the other hand, self-control in a leader inspires confidence. Self-restraint creates a healthy environment where team members feel comfortable taking risks. Self-discipline fosters a productive work environment where employees feel valued and important. Self-regulation makes it easy and safe for team members to “follow.”

In the book, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What you Can Do To Get More of It, author Kelly McGonigal states,

“Self-control is a better predictor of academic success than intelligence,
a stronger determinant of effective leadership than charisma,
and more important for marital bliss than empathy.”

Or more concisely, in Great by Choice, authors Jim Collins and Morten Hansen say,

“The best leaders have fanatic discipline.”

Yes, “fanatic discipline” can be a burden. But being at the top or climbing the ladder requires relinquishing a few privileges. People are watching how you act, they’re reacting to what you say, and they’re deciding: Do I or do I not want to follow this person?

So again, I urge any leader to ask yourself, “Would my team be willing to follow me over a hill?” When you’re honest, the responses can be quite revealing.