Followership development

They say great minds think a lot. Yesterday my dad posted about over-popularizing leadership and its negative effects. You can read that HERE. Ironically, I had this post scheduled to release next Wednesday, but for the sake of relevance, I’ve bumped it up to today.

Leadership is a popular subject. Everybody wants to be a leader. Everybody talks about “leadership development”. I can remember being in elementary school and having guest speakers come and talk to our class about “becoming a leader”.  The general message was that leaders make decisions, while followers just go along with whatever everybody else says.

The underlying basis for the challenge wasn’t really about leadership, though, the challenge was to be individuals. Leadership has been communicated as synonymous with independence and resistance to peer pressure. The more leadership is encouraged, the more people resist followership.

In our culture, admitting to be a follower is like admitting to be a loser. Pride is at stake when leadership comes up because of the negative stigma associated with following. Everybody’s desire to be a leader ultimately hurts harmony and progress.

The problem with all the leadership talk is obvious: not everyone can be a leader. In fact, not everybody even should be a leader. If everybody were a leader, nobody would be. A step further, if everybody wants to be the leader nobody will be.

If leadership is necessary (which we all know it is), then so is followership. In order for excellent leadership to take place, excellent followership must take place as well. Great followers help make great leaders by giving them opportunities to lead.

So here’s my question: In what areas can you embrace followership in order to strengthen the leadership in place? Despite the stigma, following does not entail passiveness. Following does not mean you’re giving into peer pressure. Followership is about strengthening leaders.

I think it would serve us well to learn the art of following. What are some excellent followership principles?

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16 comments

  1. Yes, great leaders must first be great followers. We all need to know the role we play on a team. We are all accountable to someone. We all need to do our best to serve those “above” us and “below” us.

    When I was a staff pastor, one of the first things I learned was the importance of “leading up.” Which meant knowing how to support the senior leadership, how to champion my cause by making sure they are well-informed, even if they’re not as passionate about it as I am.

    And I had to learn how to express myself in a way that wasn’t defensive or attacking them, if my views differed from theirs or weren’t readily accepted.

    Most importantly, I learned there were times when I just had to submit to their leadership, even if I disagreed about something. That was the choice I had to make if I was to be part of the team and have a chance to be part of the solution.

  2. Excellent post. “The more leadership is encouraged, the more followship is resisted” is an incredible point. If we taught people how to be gohod followers we would have no shortage of great leaders. This has encouraged me to change the terminology of my volunteer teams at our church. Thank you.

  3. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard it said at leadership events/conferences that “everything rises and falls on leadership.” I think I understand their point and agree that this is true to an extent. But everything also rises and falls on followship.

  4. I just simply wanted to say that I agree, and the younger staff that I’m a part of talk about these things all the time. I’m the girls minister at a church in Broken Arrow, Ok, and some of us always have great conversations about a fresh, new vision and direction for the church. But if that vision doesn’t get understood and captured from the top down, then it’s hard for the church to actually move in that direction. In other words, if our Pastor and others aren’t on board, how do these things get implemented? Praying through those things right now, and doing the best we can by changing small things for now. Thank you so much for your insight. Love reading your blog!:)

    1. That’s definitely a difficult situation to be in. I can’t relate completely, but I’ve been in environments before where I thought I knew the best way to approach something, while the leadership above me disagreed. The most challenging statement I’ve heard about that situation comes from Andy Stanley, when he says that our convictions are not moral imperatives. It’s easy to think the leadership is in sin because they aren’t listening to our ideas. The tension is between satisfying the desire to progress and move forward, while respecting the leader and recognizing our need for his or her wisdom.

      Definitely a rough situation, but at the end of the day God is still in control of all the results. It’s hard to embrace that sometimes. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Sweet. Good insight. We really have a great staff and a healthy church … Just seems as though our staff is usually split down the middle when cows to vision and approach. Difficult and frustrating at times, but I do respect my authority, and especially God’s authority and timing. Thanks guys.:)

  6. Sweet. Good insight. We really have a great staff and a healthy church … Just seems as though our staff is usually split down the middle when it comes to vision and approach. Difficult and frustrating at times, but I do respect my authority, and especially God’s authority and timing. Thanks guys.:)

    1. Thanks David, I checked out your blog. Looks like some stuff I’m interested in. I look forward to reading some more of it. Your recordings on myspace are pretty cool as well. I’m working on a Christmas Album right now, I’ll share some of it with you when I’m further along.

  7. For years as I was going up I saw myself as someone always ready to follow great or even good leadership. If I came into something established that seemed to be going in a good direction I was always ready and willing to get on board and be a part of the team. It is only as I have gotten older that I have developed more ideas. I always loved the saying ‘Lead follow or get out of the way’. It is enough to be found moving forward at all times no matter which label I am wearing.

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