Some people have the mistaken idea that leadership is simply mastering a group of skills. It's much more than that. True leadership, at least Biblical leadership, is about helping people become what they were intended to become, and accomplishing together what we couldn't do by ourselves; it's about fulfilling potential. In other words, Biblical leadership is other-centered. It's not about tasks, but relationship. While it is about results, those results aren't necessarily numbers.
For all of these reasons, one of the most important things a leader can do is to learn how to follow. Jesus didn't say "obey these rules," He said, "Follow Me." It is in the following, not just in the lesson, that the relationship is developed. Let's look at this lesson from the perspective of a follower: what do followers expect from leaders?
Followers expect leaders to have their best interests at heart.
If I'm going to follow someone, I want to know that they care about me. I want to know that what happens to me, matters to them. As some wise person once said, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
Followers expect that leaders can get them safely to the right destination.
When a leader is confused, it spreads quickly. When a leader knows where they're going and how to get there, it inspires confidence. If and when the journey gets challenging, followers want to know what's going on. When problems arise, they want to see the leader dealing with them; not running from them.
Followers expect honesty and integrity.
When a follower sets out on a journey with a leader, implicit in that commitment is trust. People generally want to believe the best of their leader. The cynicism of our age has largely come about as a result of leaders who say one thing to assume the role of leader and then do another. A leader with integrity will see to it that their actions match their words; that they are, in fact, what they say they are.
It is in the process of learning how to follow that a leader can appreciate the qualities necessary to lead effectively. This walking with and observing ought not to be rushed nor short-circuited, it's a necessary part of leadership development. I believe that's what Paul meant when he wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:22 - "Never be in a hurry about appointing a church leader." (NLT)
Some of the best leaders that I've ever seen were those who were servants first. They simply did what needed to be done, regardless of how menial the task may be. As a Lead Pastor I've cleaned my fair share of toilets. If someone is not willing to do those kinds of things, when necessary, how can they expect others to do them? Conversely, when a follower sees his leader rolling up his sleeves and getting dirty once in a while, it makes their own work more meaningful.
When leaders remember what it's like to be a follower, indeed, when we continue to be followers, we are much better leaders. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."
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