6 Steps to Becoming a Leader Others Want to Follow


I am a wave-with-a-smile kind of gal. On my daily walks in my neighborhood, I make it a habit to wave and smile at everyone that passes by. This has not always been the case.

In the past, I have been a wave-with-a-smile-if-you-waved-first kind of gal like Mr. Frank (not his real name), a loveable but crotchety older gentleman in my old neighborhood that shared my love of walking. He would complain daily about how unfriendly everyone in the neighborhood was each time we crossed paths. One day I finally asked Mr. Frank, “Do you wave and smile at everyone you see while you are walking?” His answer was no.

I used to be like Mr. Frank waiting for others to initiate first and when they didn’t I was disappointed and hurt. I probably engaged in some Mr. Frank-like complaining as well. It was not a happy place.

Now I race to be the first to wave and smile. My wave and smile are gestures I make because of who I desire to be – friendly and positive.

Waiting for others to initiate the wave, the smile, the invitation to coffee, or the connection in business is passive. Leading well doesn’t happen when I am reacting to others. Leading well happens when I step up and initiate.

Have you ever considered the message you are sending others when you only acknowledge them when they acknowledge you first? They might experience you as a person that is:

  • Too busy or preoccupied
  • Self-important
  • Arrogant
  • Aloof
  • Unfriendly
  • Insecure
  • Intimidating
  • Unavailable
  • Closed

As Christians, we are to reflect Jesus in our lives and leadership and follow His example. Jesus was an initiator. He loved first. That’s what drew people to Him and caused them to want to follow Him. Without followers, you aren’t actually leading.

Want to initiate more and be someone worth following? Here’s the secret:  

1. Connect daily with God

In order to love well and be a wave-and-smile-first kind of leader, you must spend time with the source of love. Saturate yourself in His words and His presence.

3. Choose to be a wave-and-smile-first kind of person

Initiating in this small way is a choice. It will transform your thinking to an initiator’s mindset.The side benefit to being quick to wave and smile is that it immediately sets a more positive vibe to any encounter. People will be put at ease and drawn to you.

For those who are outgoing, this might be easy. For those who are more reserved it might be more challenging. Either way, the more you do it, the easier it will get. Be brave!

3. Follow-up

It would be silly for me to start knocking on the doors of everyone I have waived and smiled at to check in on them. However, in personal, business or ministry relationships, allowing the wave and smile to be the end is just that – a dead end! Following up with those you meet and showing genuine interest in them is a great habit to develop. You never know how you might be able to bless that person later or they might be able to bless you!

Having a follow-up-and-genuinely-care mentality will set you apart as a leader, business owner, ministry leader or friend. It will increase your influence and motivate those under your leadership to perform better.

4. Be systematic

As a leader, you are rarely bored. You tend to have more ideas brewing than you can actually walk out. You get caught up in dreaming and getting things done! Without a systematic way of incorporating a “wave and smile” in your day, it won’t happen. Put reminders on your calendar or in your phone to help you make people a priority – whatever it takes.

5. Resist the temptation to hurry

Ever been in a conversation with someone you knew couldn’t wait to be done and on to the next thing? It is not a fun feeling. That kind of impatience is centered in pride and conveys that those in your path are unimportant. That was not Jesus heart. He even had time for children!

Underneath that hurry habit is the fear that you won’t be able to get done all you wish to accomplish. That fear is real. Your goals might not be accomplished, but His will! He knows what is most important and what must get done. He has ways of orchestrating things far beyond us if we will trust Him and walk in love the way He has commanded us to

6. Be a light not a mirror

Like Mr. Frank, you might be tempted to mirror back what people are giving you. If they are prickly, so are you. If they are nice you are nice. That’s being a mirror.

Instead, be a light that reflects who you are in Christ and the new creature you are in Him. When you are clear on your own identity, you are able to initiate more easily and do it in a way that is consistent with you, not in reaction to others.

You never know what a person is dealing with or how your wave and smile might make their day. Like Mr. Frank, it is easy to misinterpret the lack of waves and smiles and find yourself complaining. Why not step up and be the person, the leader, you wish others would be.

How would your life or leadership be different if you initiated more?

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her clients beat stress, fear, and floundering so that they can lead with courage, get results & THRIVE! Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.


  1. Avatar Jessie Kovacs Clayton on August 12, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Good info.

    • Marvae Marvae on August 12, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      Appreciate you stopping by Jessie!

  2. Avatar Michele on August 12, 2014 at 5:51 pm

    On my walks, I am a “hello” kind of gal. Then I wonder, ” why do I only say hello to people when I am exercising? Isn’t it just as appropriate to say hello at the grocery store as well?

    • Marvae Marvae on August 12, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      Exactly… initiating as a lifestyle! Walks are just a handy way to start the habit!

  3. Avatar Stacey C. on August 12, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Great blog post– in terms of initiation and leadership I think people will see “you” more as someone who’s most likely to be easily approachable, but sometimes that can be hard if and fact that “person” never smiles. However, this is not to assume the 9 messages one sends to others. I think maybe it could be that this particular individual is and just simply a “quiet” person in nature “deep in thought” that is until you initiate or strike up a “meaningful” conversation that invites them into your personable space.

    • Marvae Marvae on August 12, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Stacey! You never know where things might go until you initiate and invite others into your personal space as you mentioned.

  4. Avatar Sierra Waller on August 12, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    Love it! Great to remember to be myself and not let myself mirror what others are sending my way. Thank you for the encouragement.

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