When leaders and followers are working together, the organization can and will make a difference. Leaders and followers are like wings on an airplane or wheels on a bicycle, are both needed to accomplish the organization’s mission easily, efficiently, and effectively.
Leadership requires followers who will execute the mission, strategy, and plans of the organization.
The Old Testament hero, David, was successful as a military strategist, but would he have been victorious without his army and especially his forty fighting men? Nehemiah is known for rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Could he have done it alone, without followers joining in the effort? Jesus was a great leader, perhaps the best. But without his first followers—the disciples—Christianity, quite possibly would be a tiny sect in Palestine. Because his disciples executed Jesus’ instructions they changed the world. The Apostle Paul made a profound impact for Christianity by taking Jesus’ message outside of Israel. He started churches and the movement flourished. But would he have been as successful without Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and a host of people mentioned by name in his letters?
John Maxwell, before he was the leadership guru of today, was a pastor. In his first church, he presided over his first board meeting. He assumed everyone would follow him because he was the pastor. He quickly learned that a man named Claude was the one the group turned to and looked to for direction. Claude made recommendations and the group affirmed them. In time, Maxwell learned that if he were to get anything done in the church he had to first run it through Claude. Claude was Maxwell’s first follower to get things done and moving in the church.
Here are 4 ways leaders and followers can work together to make a difference.
Leaders need to be easy to follow.
Leaders need to have the character, competence, and calling that others are willing to follow. A woman once said to her pastor, “Pastor, I would follow you on an assault on hell with water pistols.” That’s the kind of follower a leader wants and needs. But it begins with the leader being the kind of person that others want to follow. Interestingly, the greatest leaders are not the most charismatic; they simply have the conviction about where they are going and what they are doing.
Leaders need followers.
Yes, leadership is important but without followers a leader is just a lone nut. Isn’t it interesting, however, that people are taught to lead well, but comparatively little affirmation or instruction equips the majority of us to follow well? Countless books can be found on leadership but few, if any, are on following. Our culture places a limited value on following and exhorts all people to become leaders. That’s ridiculous, not to mention highly ineffective. The old adage comes to mind, “Too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” We celebrate the great leaders, but dismiss the many loyal followers. An organization’s success requires training employees not only how to lead, but just as importantly, how to follow.
Good followers make leaders great.
A comedian once said, “Good children make great parents.” I would paraphrase that statement for this context to say, “Good followers make great leaders.” In other words, many a business’ employees have made a CEO look good; many a team has made a coach better than he is; and, many a church has been gifted with talented and motivated members that have made the church be effective, sometimes in spite of the pastor.
It’s not about the leader or the followers, but the mission.
The sooner leader and followers set aside personal agendas and personal preferences and get on board with the mission, the more effective the organization will be. The problem today is that we want to make the organization about us. The organization is not about their mission in the world.
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