Navigating People in the Workplace: The Loyal Follower

Are you struggling to win the trust of circumspect staff or sceptical clients?

Does it frustrate you when you just can’t seem to gain buy-in from individual stakeholders who have a “remarkable talent” for identifying cracks in your plans and forecasting problems?

Perhaps they may trust you, but still need constant assurance and can’t make a decision without a host of advice… and it’s driving you nuts?


Foreword: This blog is part of a series A Leader’s Handbook to Navigating People in the Workplace. The aim of the series to explore the core needs and behaviours of some different personalities in the workforce and provide actionable leadership pointers to growing individuals into the best version of themselves. Much of the content is derived from the Enneagram, and placed into everyday language that can be understood and applied by managers and leaders with no prior knowledge of enneagram literature.


Gaining buy-in from colleges, employees and clients isn’t about change management or winning a deal – it’s about winning people. Loyal people are hard to find and win over. But they would rather go down with the ship than jump ship. Ironically loyal types can be the greatest sceptics. They don’t hand over trust easily.

How can you alleviate this criticism and fear, and instill faith and confidence in your team and clients when they seem so risk-averse and fearful?


Understanding your Loyal Follower
The Loyal Follower is a powerful and solidifying asset to a team or project. As a client or influential stakeholder they can stick by you for years (or even decades), and as a team member they can provide morale, rally behind the mission, work hard and defend their fellow team members, leaders and organisation with fierce tenacity.

This loyalty extends beyond people to values, ideals and beliefs. If your Loyal Follower is on-board, then lucky you! They are supportive and have a gift for planning, anticipation risk and are safety-conscience. This kind of contribution would be a dream come true for any manager and business owners. So knowing how to curry favour with such types should be on the mind of anyone looking to excel at team leadership.

How do leaders win over their greatest sceptics and obtain loyal staff/clients/stakeholders and even the public blessing?

The answer is simple in essence – replace the fear/scepticism with trust. In practice instilling trust is a journey. But it’s a journey every good leader must take.

The cornerstone of the Loyal Follower’s inner struggle lies in fear vs belief/trust. This life-long struggle to overcome their internal criticism and self-doubt can express itself in many ways in their professional life.


Flight or Fight – How they handle fear
Loyal Followers who have yet to manage their fear well often regress to flight or fight instincts. Indeed all humans have this trait, but understanding your Loyal Follower’s relationship with fear will determine how well they handle conflict with you and other staff, embrace or reject change and innovation, respond to crisis, make decisions and demonstrate autonomy and initiative. That’s a huge chunk of their professional performance.

Loyal Followers who default to flight will avoid people, procrastinate scary decisions, and may pit inventive ideas in the bud.


Challenges of Flight Mode

Indecisiveness – As is the case in the other types discussed in this series, indecisiveness is a challenge for your Loyal Follower – but for different reasons than your Wiz Kid or Creative employees. Your Loyal Follower’s struggle is their anxiety that can often overrule their better judgment.

At first glance, there are logical processes at play, where they are unsure which option to choose or take. But what is less obvious in why they feel anxious. Often they’re anxious about decisions they’re more than capable of making. So why do they feel the impulse to run every micro-decision past you for approval?

They are anxious because they doubt their capacity – not so much because they fear the outcome of a poor decision.

Leadership Tip – Recognise that you’re dealing with an employee or client who is depending on the security of your expertise. This is not because they are lazy, stupid or incapable of making the right choices. They just feel safer with your support. This sense of security is a core need that when met will alleviate fearful thinking So give it. It costs you nothing other than time. With the right guidance, they will become more confident and autonomous – but we will get to that a little later in this blog.


Dependant on support systems – This is a hallmark of your relationship with a Loyal Follower (the frequent need for input, checking in ect.). This dependency puts you in a significant position of influence –so use it well. Building confidence in your Loyal Follower to mature into independence needs a nurturing touch. Throwing them in the deep end to learn to swim without adequate support will drown them. You’ll destroy their trust.

While anxiety may seem to be a nameless fear, it is likely that much of this nervousness is based in a fear of abandonment and being left without support – which is good news because that is something you can provide. Loyal Followers align themselves with safety nets – organisations, communities and networks that provide security.

Leadership Tip – Help them become more aware of their internal anxiety. Practically, this means helping them recognise their own patterns of thought that prompt doubt and require constant assurance from others. While occasional input and second opinions don’t hurt – a lot of them can be a drain on your team. This can be rectified by simply taking 15 minutes a week to catch-up to talk through concerns. If you feel they need more support, get them in touch with a professional. Anxiety is not fun and sill hamper their professional development and output.


Avoiding risk or forecasting gloom? – Because Loyal Followers are cautious by nature, this can cause other to doubt their competence to handle situations. In addition, others can interpret the ability to forecast problems as negativity and stubbornness to change.

Leadership Tip – Reverse the narrative by praising your Loyal Follower in front of the rest of the team. Celebrate wins, build their self-confidence and create a climate of encouragement within the team. Your Loyal Follower will thrive in this environment. Have open conversations about the pitfalls of fearful thinking, how it affects the team and discuss how encouragement used to intentionally combat fear. Those conversations like there present a good opportunity to explore the difference between forecasting risks versus being risk-averse.

Leadership Tip – Foster the forecasting skills of your Loyal Follower and use them as ‘quality control’ to ideas and strategies developed by other team members. This will also present your Loyal Follower with good learning opportunities to buffer their constructive criticism with encouragement and enthusiasm.


Challenges of Fight Mode
Loyal Followers who default to fight mode are often more challenging to lead. They tend to project the cause of their fear onto other things or people, and then attack. This can make them intimidating, irrational and overly zealous to initiate accusatory confrontations. The timidity of the flight mode replaced with aggression, but it’s still a fear-based knee-jerk reaction. This reactional behaviour is disruptive, and will very quickly have your team split into factions if your Loyal Follower is convincing. Alternatively, your Loyal Follower will isolate themselves and butt-heads with authority.

Ironically this fighting instinct creates an alternate set of behaviours to the loyal person we’ve previously discussed, but they are identical in their fearful tendency and need for security. They struggle with the same anxiety and self-confidence. One is timid and the other uses bravado. This aggressive risk-taking is not genuine confidence. They are likely to rally against institutions, ideas and other threats rather than questioning and seeking to understand them. They cling to causes and ideologies and make the most daring activists.

Leadership Tip – Invite them to channel their aggression into creative problem-solving and expression. Run brainstorming team meetings where you facilitate thoughtful analysis of the problems/threats and steer them toward solution-orientated design. Curb the reactionary behaviour by encouraging objective review of threats.


In summary, Loyal Followers can build fortitude, comradery and of course, a committed loyal base to your team. They struggle with fear – so encourage them into bold independence, whilst providing them with enough security to keep them on track and in the loop. Do all you can to assure their place in the team is secure, win their trust and they will reward you with dedicated hard work and unwavering support. Threaten to uproot them – and they will likely be circumspect and reluctant to follow. It’s really that simple. 

Managing people and different personalities in business are what can make or break teams and client relationships.

AT UHY Haines Norton we know that long-term success in business is a result of great leadership. We created our Business Improvement and Coaching services to equip business leaders to navigate the challenges of leading a diverse collection of people, overcoming personality differences and cultivating healthy teams.

Talk with us, and let’s discuss how you can get your team functioning at peak health and productivity. Contact our Business Development Partner Dean or Business Advisory Specialist Bill.

Dean Vane:

Bill Charlton:

Written by Judah Kampkes

Like this blog? Check out our other Navigating People in the Workplace additions:

Stay tuned for more…





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