The world is full of the rhetoric of leadership. It appears that if you really want to get anywhere in life, you must become a leader. This thinking is reinforced in high schools, college scholarship applications, university classes and activities, business books and articles you are exposed to before you even take a real job. Even my children’s sports teams speak of leadership on the field along with the emotional leadership of a few players. Honestly, it is hard to go anywhere without someone writing or talking about leadership.
Interestingly enough, when Jesus called people to himself while in ministry on the earth, he called them to be followers first. Jesus did not call 12 men into “future leadership training” instead he simply said, “Come, follow me.”
Eventually, some of those men went on to be leaders in the Church, but before they could be good and godly leaders, they needed to be followers. I think the same reality exists today. Before I try to move anyone into leadership, I ask some questions about how they are living as a follower of Jesus and the leadership placed above them.
Here are some of the characteristics I see in a good follower.
1. A good follower is willing to listen & learn. A good follower must first admit that they do not have everything figured out. They must acknowledge that there is a great deal to learn. As a result, they listen to the instructions of others. They read to grow. A good follower is committed to seeking growth through the teaching of others.
2. A good follower is willing to submit. There is not really a nice way to say this other than, “they do what they are told.” Granted they may not always agree or even understand the reason for the instruction, but they do it anyway. They submit their will to the person who is placed over them.
3. A good follower is willing to serve. Jesus was arguably one of the best leaders of all time, and yet he says that he came to serve (Mark 10:45). Christian leadership is achieved by a life of service. The goal is not to have people who desire to sit in a boardroom making decisions. The goal is to have people willing to do anything for the kingdom of God. They will wash, clean, paint, pick up, repair, or do whatever is required to move forward the cause of Christ.
4. A good follower is willing to sacrifice. These people are willing to give of themselves for the good of the group or the leader. They give up time, talent and treasure to bring growth. They will work hard and surrender themselves for the good of their cause.
I firmly believe that real leadership is formed in the lives of good followers. Before you set your heart on leadership, especially in the Church, you must be willing to follow. This process has a way of humbling your soul and breaking your spirit so that God can use you.
In a world looking for a few good leaders, I would like to be a part of a group of followers.