Great Followers (eventually) Make Great Leaders
September 30, 2013 Vicki Ohlerking

Great Followers (eventually) Make Great Leaders

September 30 2013

Kerri Weems | Pastor | Celebration Church | Jacksonville, Fl

This is a leadership blog post based on the book It’s Time by Dianne Wilson. We had a great time last year using the short chapters as a jump-start for our mentoring discussion.

When is the last time you heard a leadership message about how to be a great follower? It isn’t often that the virtues of following well are extolled, but the truth is without followers there would be no leaders. I’m willing to bet that most great leaders started out as great followers, and I’m convinced that the ability to lead well is intricately intertwined with the ability to follow well. God pointed this out to me in a memorable way when I was a student – leader in the college ministry at out home church in Baton Rouge, LA.

Our college ministry pastor had recently made a seemingly random decision that all the girls on worship team should only wear skirts and nice shoes on stage at our weekly Tuesday night meetings. I lived forty-five minutes from our gathering place and my school day on Tuesdays lasted from 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM. I had to report to worship rehearsal at 5:30, so by the time I could drive home, I would only be there for fifteen minutes before having to turn around and drive another forty-five minutes back to the meeting venue to lead worship for four and a half hours.

What does all this mean? Let me tell you ladies in one, very telling statement:

SKIRTS AND DRESS SHOES FROM 7AM – 10:30PM WITH AN AVERAGE WALKING DISTANCE OF THREE MILES AROUND THE CAMPUS ON SCHOOL DAYS.

{OUCH. MY FEET CAN STILL FEEL IT.}

As I drove I crossed that line where pouring out your heart in prayer becomes telling off no one in particular. How can he ask this? It’s totally unreasonable. He only lives five minutes away – if he had to walk around in heels all day I bet this would suddenly seem like a bad idea! Of course since he is a man he would never even be in a position to do this… that’s what this is…SEXISM!

Just then the Holy Spirit gently rebuked me. His voice was so clear  — so dramatically in opposition to my train of thought – I knew He was stopping me dead in my toxic tracks. He said:

Notice the Holy Spirit didn’t say whether I was wrong or right. That wasn’t the issue. The real issue was my heart. I had a choice to make – continue to indulge my frustration and resentment or submit to this seemingly random order and see that kind of character God could build in me through it. From that point on my attitude changed drastically. I made it my goal to be the very best follower I could possibly be! I truly believe that the leader I am today is tied the kind of follower I was in my yesterdays, even when the goals sometimes seemed unrealistic to me.

In her book, Dianne outlines some characteristics of a good follower. I have listed just a few of them below and in parentheses noted how those characteristics are tied to being a good leader. Read the list – maybe you can add some corollaries of your own.

10 Characteristics of a Good Follower (It’s Time, page 45)

  • Ability to listen (Obvious… who could deny that being a good listener is key to being a good leader?)
  • Ability to submit. (If we have trouble submitting to leaders we can see and who we know will inspect our work, how can we submit to a God we can’t see? What will be the quality of our work when it is almost never inspected?)
  • Ability to trust. (If you have ever trusted and been let down, you know how vulnerable this makes you as a follower. ALWAYS remember how important your trustworthiness is to those you lead.)
  • Ability to get in line. (As a follower you know the importance of the unseen roles – you fulfilled those roles yourself! As a leader, you realize that sometimes the greatest strength of your team lies in the quietest and least visible places.)

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