Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

May 2003
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Characteristics of Healthy Followers — Part 3

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

If our churches and Christian ministries are to be healthy, every member must take responsibility for the whole, functioning actively and thoughtfully. Our last two Letters examined the first five out of eleven characteristics of effective followers. We saw that healthy followers obey, encourage, take responsibility, give advice and counsel, and challenge when necessary. The next three characteristics:

6. Seek honest feedback. It can be difficult for a leader to express negative concerns about a follower’s weaknesses. It is much easier to focus only on his strengths. To build mutual trust and openness, a healthy follower will encourage the leader to be candid and direct. He will ask the leader for input on how his performance can be more effective, and he will not withdraw and sulk when the leader shares corrections or concerns.

He who heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray. (Prov. 10:17)

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. (Prov. 12:1)

The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. (Prov. 12:15; see also 4:1; 5:11-14; 13:1, 10, 13, 18; 15:5, 10, 12, 31-32; 16:20; 17:10)

In this way, the healthy follower chooses accountability regarding his own life, the details of his own ministry and how his ministry fits with the whole community.

7. Clarify roles and expectations. It is the leader’s responsibility to make known to his followers what their exact roles and responsibilities are. Nevertheless, many leaders fail to communicate these things:

Followers must pursue clarification in these areas. Sometimes the issue is role conflict: the leader directs a follower to perform mutually exclusive tasks and expects results from all of them at the same time. Healthy followers will diplomatically but firmly resolve role ambiguity and conflict.

8. Show appreciation. Healthy leaders affirm their followers, and healthy followers affirm their leaders. When such affirmation is sincere and not manipulative, it will strengthen the leader-follower relationship as well as encourage the leader to push ahead toward the fulfillment of the vision.

He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:16-18)

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also. (2 Cor. 6:11-13)

Our next Letter will examine the final three characteristics of effective followers.�

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