follow the leader is no game

The last few years, I have been in many positions of leadership. At the same time, I have always had a boss, a director or a leader over me.  I have heard seminars, been to trainings and read books about leading… I have never received input about following well.

In the New Testament, Jesus spoke of following much more often than He did of leading. It is clear that following is a choice – following Him or following the enemy. Thinking about it, I realize that being a good follower is really important. As I follow others, I reflect how well I follow Jesus.  I want to be a good follower.

What does being a good follower mean? I’ve grouped some of my first thoughts into three simple categories so I can easily evaluate how I am doing…

ATTITUDES: Heart attitude is the first place for me to look.

  • Do I pray for my leader? I mean do I really pray regularly, specifically, taking the initiative to ask about their needs? During my years as a national leader, I could count on one hand the people who asked me how they could pray for me. That was hard – I often felt alone.  I want my leaders to know that they can count on me to pray for them.
  • Do I believe the best of them?  No leader is perfect – far from it. I know I forgot to say thank you, arrived late, planned poorly, lacked vision, acted selfishly, and criticized others at times… but it was never because I woke up in the morning and decided, “I am going to intentionally be a bad leader and do harm to some people today.” Do I believe my leaders want to do their best? Do I give them grace to fail? Am I patient before passing judgement?

WORDS: Do my words indicate that I am a good follower?

  • Do I tell my leader “thank you” when I see them work hard, when they do something well, when they invest in my development? How do I speak about my leader to others? Do I express respect for their position and them personally? Do I encourage others to do the same?
  • If I don’t agree with something, do I go directly to them to clarify and understand the issue? When I led, I was so grateful for those who came and spoke to me directly – even if they were frustrated or angry with me. Those difficult conversations ultimately strengthened our relationship. Unfortunately, they were few. More often gossip, behind the back criticism, and mutiny damaged relationships. I have committed to speak directly with my leader if I am unsure of something, if I don’t agree, or if I am hurt. No excuses.

ACTIONS: Do I support my leader/boss/director with my actions?

  • Do I bring a positive attitude, a servant spirit, and a learner mindset to the job each day? Or do I act entitled? Demand perks? Have a victim mindset?
  • Do I do the best work that I can for my leader? Do I work hard my full hours, take the initiative to offer suggestions, do a quality job? Do I do what I am asked? Am I honest, responsible and trustworthy? Is my leader more effective because I have his/her back?

It is worth asking, “Would I want me as a follower?”

Help me learn… What do you look for in a good follower?  What do you think is important for someone to follow well?

4 thoughts on “follow the leader is no game

  1. Terry, great observations! Thanks. Another question – what is a leader’s responsibility to their leader if their leader is acting in a way that is toxic to themselves and their organization? How does the leader handle the threat to their own well being by being a voice in such a situation?

    • A few quick thoughts…In that case, in an effort to increase understanding and communicate care, a “difficult conversation” is a good step forward. Following the principles of Matt 18:15-17, talking directly to understand and attempt to agree on future necessary changes…if there is no willingness and /or no progress, involve others, probably a peer at least or a superior – (document the process). If there is still no progress, be willing to make (or request, if they don’t have the authority themselves) the hard choices of reassignment or firing, etc. *** key is to go directly first!!

  2. Wow! En verdad me abres mucho la mente al respecto de éste tema. Me doy cuenta que también hay que aprender a ser un buen seguidor, que también tengo debéres y responsabilidades como tal. Lo que dices de apoyar con mis actitudes, palabras, oracion a mi lider en vez de criticarlo estoy segura que será un “parte aguas” para mi. Gracias doy a Dios por revelarme ésto a través de tu artículo. Gracias Terry!

    • Gracias, May, por tus palabras de ánimo! La verdad es que estoy aprendiendo cómo ser buen seguidor tmb. No es tan fácil, y como dije, pocos hablan de esto, pero creo que es muy importante!

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