Cultivating Internal Followership for Organizational Success — Anouk Pappers

Inspiration And Insights
4 min readNov 28, 2023


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The value of internal followership, particularly within Fortune 500 companies, is an often overlooked component of leadership. The capacity to effectively follow the directives and vision of leaders within an organization is a crucial facet for achieving corporate goals. It encourages collaboration, enhances morale, and drives productivity. A key to nurturing this followership is through the development of a well-defined personal brand, one that clearly depicts the individual’s values, passion, and driving principles, as well as their expertise, experiences and perspectives.

In order to create a cohesive and high-functioning workplace, leaders need to foment a smooth transmission of ideas, the alignment of goals, and the establishment of a shared organizational culture. Employees who embody good followership abilities are often the most valued, as they demonstrate adaptability, communication skills, and a commitment to the organization’s success. They are the linchpin that holds a team’s efforts together, translating strategic visions into practical outcomes.

Moreover, effective followership is important because it ensures that plans are properly implemented with both fidelity and enthusiasm. Leaders may set the direction, but followers determine the pace and the quality of the journey. Teams with strong followership are more synchronized, less resistant to change, and more proactive in overcoming obstacles, thereby significantly boosting the organization’s efficiency.

In order to build trust and strong followership, leaders need to be steadfast in communicating their personal brand. This will enable team members to connect with them on a fundamental level and offer a better appreciation of their role and contributions within the team.

So how does one develop and communicate a personal brand within an organization? It starts with self-reflection — understanding your core values, pinpointing your strengths, and acknowledging your weaknesses. Once you have a grasp on these elements, the next step is to consistently demonstrate them through your actions and decisions.

Communication is equally critical. A personal brand that isn’t effectively communicated is like a lighthouse without a light — it fails to guide. Leaders should seize opportunities to showcase their brand in meetings, projects, and through their day-to-day interactions. When leaders communicate their brand consistently, they become more predictable to their followers, which is a subtle yet powerful form of psychological safety that bolsters followership.

Leaders should also be advocates for their teams, representing the group’s interests and achievements to the broader organization. This not only strengthens the bond between the leader and their followers but also helps in cementing the leader’s reputation as someone who is integral to the team’s success and reinforces their brand.

Followership and personal branding are two sides of the same coin. Leaders who focus on their personal brand and cultivate strong internal followership are more likely to be trusted, their teams are often more engaged and their departments are more productive. Moreover, strong followership and a well-defined personal brand make it easier for higher leadership to identify potential candidates for promotion. They can see not just what the individual has achieved, but what they represent and how they can shape the future of the company.

In a Fortune 500 environment, where competition is fierce and the pace is relentless, the ability to nurture a followership through a strong personal brand can be a game-changer. It is an intricate dance of self-awareness, communication, and representation that can lead to a stronger, more resilient organization poised for enduring success.

A brand anthropologist who has been storytelling for brands since 2002, Anouk Pappers has interviewed over 1,000 CEOs, CMOs and business owners and published 15 books. Anouk’s primary focus is on working with women and diverse leaders to define their personal brands and pinpoint their narrative. Her company, Signitt, enables people to align their online presence with their personal brand, which positions them to achieve their next professional goal.