Check out this fantastic 3 minute TED video. Derek Sivers provides a brilliant brief conceptual analysis, touching on points including:
1. Leaders are over-rated, if someone does not follow, they are just lone nuts.
2. The first follower is the one who creates a leader.
3. The leader had the wisdom to treat the first follower as an equal, which encouraged him to join and stay.
4. The people who come after everyone's doing it are interesting, as they rush to get there soon enough when it is still cool but safe because a lot of people are doing it.
5. At some point, it may spread so far that people will risk ridicule for not joining.
6. Leaders are over-rated, early -- especially first followers -- followers provide an underrated form of leadership.
I would add, as a small addition, that another way to think about the leader here is he succeeded because he was sensitive to what would motivate the first follower and the other early followers.
This is a case of influence by someone without authority. But just think if you had authority and also applied these principles. That is what great leaders -- and first followers -- do, it seems.
P.S. A big thanks to Scott for sending this my way.