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Followship Is The New Leadership?

Mar 4 2011

One thing we constantly seek to develop is leadership. We read books about it, hear sermons on it, admire it in great heroes of the faith and builders of large churches. There's no doubt that leadership is one of the most influential ingredients for success, longevity and real impact.

One critical ingredient we often overlook is leadership's less famous cousin – I call it ‘followship’. Followship is much less glamorous than leadership and doesn't get much attention, but it is critically important.

Truth is you will only be able to lead to the degree you successfully follow.

In the creative frame of reference, followship can often be wrongly seen as difficult, confusing, or even weak… this could not be further from the truth. Followship is a sign of true humility and security; we see this in the lives of Joshua, David, Paul, the disciples and many others throughout the Bible. And not only that – faithfully following your leader also releases them to focus on the things that only they can.

There are definite strategies to be a successful follower in a creative setting, whether you are the worship pastor, a volunteer, staff member or somewhere in between.

Here are four key traits I've found helpful when trying to follow my leaders as best I can. I've done my best to keep these practical… (we’ll save the theology for another time).

First: Know what they want before they want it.
From the little things like whether they want a double espresso or a cappuccino, to the bigger things like where they do their best work. Know what their favourite album is, what their favourite movies and places are… everything. Knowing these things will give you insight into what they may want both now and in the future. Don't go over the top and head to borderline stalker status – but do take the responsibility to see that what they want is outworked. Making an effort to understand your leader’s likes and dislikes in your area of involvement can go a long way.

Second: Be on their page.
It's not their job to 'get' you and cater to your personal preferences – it's the other way around. Your purpose as a follower is to release your leader to greater heights and new opportunities. Be aware of their calendar, priorities and other things that don't actually involve you. You are not, surprisingly enough, their entire universe 😉 Know what they're going to want and then put yourself in the position to provide it for them.

Third: Bring solutions not just problems.
A good follower doesn't take their problems to the leader for them to solve. Good followship takes a problem to the leader along with several suggestions for potential solutions to choose from. In fact, good followship solves the problem when possible, then tells the leader what happened and how it's already been taken care of.

Fourth: Don't be precious.
Good fellowship isn't self seeking, covetous or looking for praise. You need a thick skin to be a good follower. Whatever you can do to serve your leader, do it. Don't get upset if you give them an idea that gets used but they get the credit. Refuse to get bitter and disappointed if they don't thank you for all the hours you put into that event, project, song or design. Don't feel like they owe you anything… because they don't… You are a follower and you are there to serve. You are placed with purpose to release your leader and push them forward.

I am the first to say I am not the best at these skills (and they are skills that can be learnt, taught, and developed)… But I am practicing as much as I can.

What about you? What ways have you found to develop ‘followship’ in your own relationship with your leaders?