For as long as I can remember, I’ve been brought up to be a leader. It’s not that I think I have something special, but more so a product of the culture I grew up in.
In the church, we are obsessed with leaders, leadership traits, and leadership shortcomings. In order to be an effective leader, we have to possess and exude the right qualities.
I think this is true, but I also think we have raised the idea of a leader too high up on a pedestal that will only make them fall even further when they make a mistake.
Leadership obsession has swept the American church almost as fast as it has swept the American industry.
Peruse a Christian Living section at a bookstore sometime, and you’re sure to come across countless books on leadership and how to attain the qualities of one (in case you weren’t born with them, like John Maxwell was).
I think what we should start focusing more on is followship. (Not really a word, but I’m not really an expert, so we’ll just go with that.)
Allow me to offer an anecdote.
As I said before, I’ve been trained to be a leader for as long as I’d like to remember. I’m nothing special, and I don’t think I have all the answers people are looking for. But I will say that I know I possess some kind of charisma, or a je ne sais quoi, that tends to attract people to me. Now this isn’t meant to be mistaken for hubris or bravado. I just know that I have a way of connecting with certain people that helps to disarm them and can be endearing. Besides, I’ve been told this many times, so there has to be some element of truth within all of this, right?
Despite all my characteristics that are worthy of a leader though, at this moment in my life, I don’t think I’m called to be one. Not in a broad sense of the term, at least.
There are moments and relationships that my leadership is definitely necessary in, but in general, I don’t think there would be too many people who would venture to follow me at this moment, and who could blame them?
I’m still so young in the grand scheme of life, and my experience is quite little. This doesn’t mean that I don’t think I could one day be a leader, or even a good leader (there is a difference). There’s so much more that needs to happen in my life for me to know what I’m completely capable of, and in return, what I’ll actually do with those capabilities.
If you don’t follow a bit of my logic, don’t worry. I doubt I could if I were you either. Which is probably a good example of what I’m trying to say.
I’m not ready to be the kind of leader I could be.
I think I’m called to be a follower. And that’s a very tough notion for me to admit to.
But there’s something truly poignant to be found in letting go of my ambitions, and allowing someone else to teach and mold me. Again I say, this doesn’t negate my abilities to lead and formulate a decent vision for myself and others in terms of a collective goal. But to reign in my ambitions just a little serves a wonderful purpose in that it forces me to remember that it really isn’t about me or what I want.
This is nothing new. Being a follower is an idea that’s as ancient as the teachings of Christ.
That means I don’t expect ANYTHING in return. That means I allow others to take control when necessary, even if that means me losing complete control for a while.
Anything that I am a part of is vastly larger than I am. If it isn’t, then I will have no part in it.
For some, like myself, following instead of leading is a difficult idea to wrestle with. But I believe that if we first follow, and maybe for a greater chunk of our lives than we lead, we will be better leaders.
We will have firsthand experience and knowledge as to what those who are following us are thinking and feeling. As a leader, isn’t this what you want? Isn’t this what it’s about? We have to know the people in order to lead them.
At this point in my life, I don’t think I “know the people” enough yet. I’m not ready to be that leader I so wish to be. Perhaps one day I will get to that point, but I need to be reconciled with the possibility that I may not.