The Lynchpin to Team Cohesion

By Stephanie Zonars

Player leadership is crucial to creating a winning team culture. We know this. Coaches long to have a few players on the team with the courage to step up and lead on the court and in the locker room.

But there’s another role that may be even more important to team cohesion and creating a solid team culture.

In the video below, Derek Sivers calls this person the “first follower.” Check out the fascinating video about how to start a movement in under 3 minutes, then look over the key points and finally, see how this relates to you and your team.


As outlined in the video:


  • has the guts to stand alone and look ridiculous
  • nurtures first follower as an equal
  • makes it about them, not him/herself
  • makes it easy to follow

First follower—

  • has a crucial role
  • shows everyone else how to follow
  • embraced by the leader as an equal
  • calls others to join
  • courage to be first one to follow and to stand out
  • typically under appreciated form of leadership
  • transforms the lone nut into a leader

The reason why so many coaches tell me that they don’t have leaders on their team is that most young people don’t have the courage to “stand alone and look ridiculous.” Players may say they want to be leaders, but finding ones who will actually hold teammates accountable and defend the culture in the locker room can be tough.

BUT, it may be easier if they had the certainty of a first follower. If they knew that a teammate would follow well and show the rest of the team how, it may be easier to muster up the courage to step up and lead.

One of the things I loved about our team handbook at Penn State was the page about how to be a good follower.

We talk so much about leadership, but sometimes fail to mention the importance of learning how to follow. [Tweet That!]

The first follower serves as the connector, the lynchpin, between the team leader(s) and the rest of the team. When the leader(s) embrace the first follower as an equal and make it about the team, they become easy to follow.

You probably have identified players you want to help grow as leaders. Remember to also select a first follower to build a bridge to the rest of the team and help her embrace and fulfill that role with excellence.


The Lynchpin to Team Cohesion appeared first on Life Beyond Sport.

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Stephanie Zonars helps coaches build and maintain championship cultures through her business, Life Beyond Sport. Teams at Penn State, Notre Dame, West Point and over 65 other schools have built stronger trust, communication and teamwork through her workshops. Stephanie spent three years on staff with the Penn State women’s basketball team, assisting the team to back-to-back Big Ten Championships. An author of four books, she now serves as Assistant AD of Marketing & Promotions at Cedarville University. Learn more at

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