This blog is from an article written by James Oakley (Leaders and followers – equipping our children).
I want to raise my children to live well in community. I’m not willing to buy into the prevailing cultural notion of the rugged individualist. The Jack Bauer/John McClane/John Rebus type of character, who beats the system as well as the bad guys, is fine in fiction, but it’s not real life.
No, I want to raise my children so that they can live well and lead well in community with others. I was struck the other day, while listening to a recording of a talk given by Tim Hawkins, by the link that he draws between becoming a good leader and being a good follower. He even titled his talk ‘followership’, describing this as the missing key to great leadership. To become a great leader, it is necessary to be a good follower. To lead others well, you need to be able to model how to follow well. Living well in community with others involves the ability to submit to the leadership of others in that community.
Now there are a whole host of objections that sprang to mind when I was listening to this. I was thinking about poor leadership, or evil leadership. (And in this context I was hardly thinking at all about any current federal governments that happened to be governing the country.) I was wondering what he would say about when human leadership conflicts with God’s rule. Working through scriptures such as Romans 13 and Acts 4, Tim answered these objections.
Firstly, it is prayerful. Imagine that your church leadership is considering a change in the arrangements for Sunday morning children’s ministry – a change that you’re unhappy with. A good follower will respond humbly and prayerfully to a leadership decision that he or she does not like. After all, we’re human and we make mistakes. We don’t always have the whole picture. I was challenged to approach God humbly, asking that he address my heart and attitudes. I must make room for the possibility that the decision is in accordance with God’s will, and that I need to change! Contrast this with a rebellious response, which will either ignore prayer entirely, or will pray asking God to change the decision or the leader!
Secondly, good followers listen. Having prayed, I might think that I’m still right and the leader is wrong. If I am properly submitting to authority I will respectfully ask the leader to explain, and will listen to the reasons for the decision, genuinely trying to understand. Again, look at the contrast with a rebellious response: the rebel is trying to gather ammunition for the coming fight, and trying to think up counter arguments.
Thirdly, a good follower will present his or her opinion. What if I am still convinced that the decision is poor? Then I will speak with those in leadership with as much persuasiveness, passion, reason, evidence and conviction that I can muster. I will advocate for the course of action that I am convinced is right. But I will do so with respect, and will avoid personal attacks. The rebel, by contrast, will speak about those in leadership. Their attack is directed at the leader, rather than the decision.
Finally, a good follower will either submit to the decision, working for the goals established by the leader, or will respectfully and peacefully withdraw. Even if I am convinced that I was right, my choices are to either support the decision, or to pull out of the involvement I had, acknowledging that right of the leaders to lead! A rebel continues the white ant campaign, and may even actively work against the decision.
This is a brief sketch, which would need adapting for different circumstances, but I hope that you can see the principles underlying it.
To read more of this article, please go to: Leaders and followers – Equipping our children