Get ready. Something profound is coming. You don’t want to miss it. You are going to want to hear this little nugget of news that might actually change your life. Ready? Here goes.
Leaders have good followers. (Read that again for emphasis)
That does not mean that the leader has necessarily made the followers good or even competent in following. It means that when a leader enjoys success it is in part due to the quality of the people they are leading. A large portion of that quality follower was likely installed over the years and under the leadership of someone else. Leader Jane or Leader John is lucky enough to have inherited some followers who have been well formed and likely well led by others along the way.
So let me say something to followers (and everyone is a follower of someone and/or in some way.)
How you follow matters to the one who is leading you. Good following traits are loyalty, honesty, commitment, courage, faith, and trusting. Bad traits of a follower are being selfish, guarded, individualistic, arrogant, bitter, nervous, and short sighted. Your actions, attitudes and aspirations can be a blessing or a curse to the one who leads you. Your feelings, fears and fraternizing will impact the leader at the top of your chain as well as every other link along the way. Don’t downplay your impact as a follower at home, at work, at church, or in society. Your ability to follow effectively matters to many people.
So follow well my friend and take this test on your following skills:
TEST- Follower Questions:
- When you look at the picture above can you even see the followers in the photo or do you only see red?
- Do you follow because you aren’t allowed to lead or because following is really how you are gifted and most capable?
- Do you follow because you love who is leading or because you don’t have a choice?
- Is following a stepping stone or sweet spot for your life?
- What are you expecting in return for going along as a follower?
- Do you follow as a servant-leader or as servant-seeking-a-leaders-role?
- When will you outgrow being just an ordinary, indifferent follower and become the world’s best follower for the world’s best leader on the world’s greatest team?
- Have you ever read a book or watched a video about following well or is your knowledge base solely on maximizing your leadership opportunities?
There is a right and a wrong way to answer those questions. (Admittedly, there might also be a middle way to answer them.) However they are answered we should get immediate self-feedback on how we feel about being a follower. Those feelings likely impact how we follow and consequently impact the leader who is leading us. When we loathe our position in a movement (family, church, work, etc..) we usually aren’t giving our best for the overall success of everybody. We are not fully buying in to what is going on. Our need to be passive aggressive might be trumping our call to be actively invested and all in.
Being a follower is not a punishment or problem. Following is a privilege and a protected class because leading is hard work and carries great responsibility. Following is equally difficult because it requires us to give up some authority and control of what we are doing and where we are personally headed. But yielding authority/control to others may very well save us from our own undoing. Leading and following is both an art and a science, but both lean heavily towards the artsy side. Theory cannot be too far ahead of practice when it comes to leading and/or following. It may be more popular to write a book about leadership, but points and poems about leading have to dove tail with best practices of actually leading or they are wasted words.
Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you… But many who are first will be last, and the last shall be first.” (Mark 10:28)
Mark 10 is not an equation to help followers see the long term benefit or the payoff of not being first. It is a story that tells how Jesus spoke to those who followed him. His advice to followers was/is not to fret over their place in line or their piece of the pie. His encouragement to followers was/is to focus on the task at hand and give yourself fully to the day’s work without reservation, retort or regret over who is leading or how they lead. If you are following, be the best follower in the group of “followship.” In the end, followers will not lose because they followed well. They will gain because they followed faithfully.
It seems to me that if we had more quality followers available then we would likely see a better pipe line of leaders emerging, but in a very healthy natural way. And the world would be much better off. There should be zero shame or embarrassment for displaying a consistent gift to be the most dependable, stable follower in the crowd. Just make sure that who or what you are following is on the right path and headed in the right direction.
Inside every leader is a former follower who hopefully remembers life in the second chair (or third, or fourth.) Inside every follower is the temptation to lead the pack their way even if they aren’t ready and the fit isn’t good. In an ideal world both leader and follower would see the success of their effort as their common cause so that personal pleasure, gain or control can be sacrificed for the greater good. Leadership is not about machismo and followship is not about being a doormat for big personalities or bullies. They are both intimately connected and focused on doing something together that can’t be done apart.
Look around your life. Think about those who are leading you. Think about how they lead and what success they have had as a leader. What does their leadership success say about your following ability?
For Sunday – October 11, 2015 / Proper 23B
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
29Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” ( Mark 10)