Three Ways to Build “Ultra Passionate Fan” Support with Mark Hamill

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A key aspect in being a leader is having people who follow you…voluntarily…and readily. Some may call these individuals “fans,” but after reading this quote from Mark Hamill, we need to strive for more than just people who like us; we need “Ultra Passionate Fans.”

…I have the most supportive backup. It sounds corny but over the course of my life to have this happen in a way that people are, you know – it's like if I hadn't gone through the Beatles I wouldn't understand it. And I'm not comparing myself to them in any way, shape or form, but in terms of disproportionate reverence for something that you can't explain, where you wanna know where they live and what they eat. I call 'em UPFs: the Ultra Passionate Fan. ‘Cause there's fans who like the movie and, go, ‘It was well done and I enjoyed myself. Now I wanna see the James Bond’ — and then there are the UPFs. It's changed their lives: ‘I got into movies because of this,’ or ‘I met my wife online [because of Star Wars].’—Mark Hamill

We don’t need to possess the Jedi mind-control mastery of Luke Skywalker to garner Ultra Passionate Fans. These three support-building tools should be all the Force you need.

Focus on Feelings

The essence of fandom is based in an emotional attachment. This means you will not build a foundation of support on a logic-based fact campaign. You need to tap into their sentimental side.

Star Wars provides endearing characters and an engaging plot shrouded in a mythos that is imprinted in our unconscious. To tap into you’re team’s feelings, consider why they should care, how will they be affected, and what is expected of them to get it done. Then, tailor your message to directly address these concerns.

Emphasize Involvement

While Passionate Fans are fascinated with a particular thing, Ultra Passionate Fans are actively involved in propagating that thing. For a Star Wars fan, this includes watching the movies, reading the books, and/or buying the toys; however, these are still relatively passive behaviors. To be more active, they may role play Han and Luke (as me and my friends did when we were kids) or argue the intricacies and philosophical stances of the Jedi Knight (as me and my friends do now).

The idea of active involvement stems from the psychological theory of effort justification where people have a tendency to attribute greater value to an outcome if they put effort into achieving it. Therefore as leaders, me must produce opportunities for your team to exert energy. Include them in developing goals. Enact an action plan. And empower them to move that plan forward.

Encourage Inquisition

For people to feel a desire to be involved, they cannot be spoon-fed every morsel of information. In an interesting article by R. Donald James Gauvreau, he relayed a conversation on Harry Potter fandom:

It was pointed out that a major factor— not necessarily the biggest, just big— was, paradoxically, that there was so much room for improvement in the series. There were holes, there were things that didn’t make sense, and there were plot decisions that weren’t liked, and so the series straddled this weird place where it was awesome enough to be worth reading but sucky enough that you wanted to go in and fix the stuff you didn’t like.

If you want to teach your team, give them a fully outlined project. If you want them to be engaged contributors, provide the vision and get out of the way so they have adequate time to build curiosity and buy-in. Ask questions to prompt participation and let them fill in the details so they can own it.

Mark Hamill has been in the center of Ultra Passionate Fandom for almost 40 years. He understands the benefits of an avid group of supporters and how they will follow and back you through each of your subsequent endeavors. You can re-create your fan base with each new venture, or you can solidify your champions now, freeing you up to spend the rest of your time making progress that moves you closer towards your goals. Resist the Dark Side and be a leader in the Rebel Alliance.

VIADavid Kahn
David Kahn, PhD is an Organizational Psychologist focused on delivering business solutions that link culture and engagement with the business goals of the organization. Check out his latest book, "Case, Spandex, Briefcase: Leadership Lessons from Superheroes" and read more of his work on