Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

June 2003
« May   Jul »


How Followers Influence Their Leaders — Part 1

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

At some point, most followers complain about their leaders. Some of the most common complaints are:

“My leader will not listen to me.”
“He will not encourage me.”
“He will not recognize my efforts.”

Apart from the Lord Jesus, no leader will ever be perfect. All leaders can, however, improve in their leadership. Followers can actually help their leaders improve by doing the following:

1. Overcome the barrier. Most relationships between leaders and followers are characterized by certain degrees of emotion and behavior based on authority and submission. A leader is an authority figures and may play a disproportionately large role in the mind of a follower. Followers may find themselves being overcritical of the leader, or rebellious, or passive. Some leader-follower relationships are similar to parent-child relationships, and people may find themselves engaging in old family patterns when relating to their leaders. Healthy followers will understand that we are all one in Christ:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28)

In Christ we are all equal; thus, followers are not inherently subordinate. With this perspective, we can all relate well to our leaders, while maintaining the appropriate respect.

2. Be realistic. The healthy follower has given up idealized images of his leader and knows that all leaders are fallible and make mistakes. This acceptance of the leader’s humanity is the foundation of a healthy relationship. We must view our leaders as they really are; not as we think they should be or would like them to be.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. (1 Cor. 3:5)

In addition, good followers will present realistic images of themselves. They will not try to hide their weaknesses or cover their mistakes. Neither will they criticize their leaders to others; instead they will directly and constructively disagree with them.

3. Strive to understand. The healthy follower will go to lengths to understand his leader, asking such questions as:
What is the leader trying to accomplish in the long-term?
What are his short-term goals?
What does the leader want me to accomplish – and how does that relate to question #1?
Why is the leader in charge? Why did God choose this person for this position?
Does my vision line up with the leader’s vision?
Do my goals advance the leader’s vision – or conflict with it?
What kinds of problems most worry the leader?
What kinds of victories most please the leader?
What past experiences has the leader been through that have made him the way he is now?
What pressures and challenges does the leader face now?
What strengths do I have that can complement the leader’s weaknesses?

In our next Letter we will study three more ways that followers can influence their leaders, helping them to grow.

Comments 0
There are currently no comments.