Saturday, May 18, 2013

Leading and Following

Is everyone a leader?

I don't think so.

I think anyone can learn to lead, just like anyone can learn to play the piano. But even though I have had 12 years of formal piano training, I will NEVER be a gifted pianist. I can competently play some piano music, and it is a skill that I am willing to use if need be; however, it is not a gift. In the same way, I believe that people can go through leadership training, and be competent to lead if need be, but not everyone is a gifted leader.

I have been pondering these thoughts because David and I just completed a leadership training program that consisted of 5 3-day sessions every 6 months over 2.5 years. In the end, I suppose some participants grew in their leadership abilities; however, no one jumped from "competent leader" to "gifted leader." I don't think it can be done.

And while I believe it can be helpful for just about anyone to learn some basic leadership principals, I wonder why it seems that we push everyone to become a leader. If we all lead, who will follow?

Speaking of following--a separate but related topic--there is NO DOUBT that all of us are called at some point to be a follower; yet, no one seems to have Follower-ship Training Programs! Why is that? It certainly is not because we are all naturally good followers! Most of us have the follower-ship capacity of a cat--which is minimal to say the least. How can we better honor and learn from the gifted followers in our lives? I suppose it would be difficult to talk a gifted follower into leading a seminar!

In either case, it seems that leading and following cannot be fully separated from each other! Me? I am a leader. Some have called me a gifted leader. Leading is actually one of my best things. At the same time, I have come to realize that redemptive leadership flows from effective following; it is only by following Jesus that I can lead with any integrity, hope, or goodness at all.

But it took me some time to learn that most of the work of leadership goes unnoticed, uncelebrated, and unrecognized. Leadership is hard on the knees and involves a lot of foot-washing. Some leadership roles have room for vision, direction, and coordination. Most leadership roles require empowering, encouraging, and serving. All leadership roles demand humility and sacrifice.

Nevertheless, I have not done a lot of leading since I moved to France. I have done a lot of learning; a lot of listening; a lot of following. I have grown (happily) in my follower-ship skills, though not enough to be an expert! Through my many opportunities to follow I am beginning to see God's grace in this time of non-leading. Strangely, it is not through a leadership training program that my leadership skills have been enhanced over the past 2.5 years, but rather through accepting the role of a servant, through increased opportunities to humble myself, and through choosing to live in community.

All of that to say this: some may benefit from leadership training, but perhaps gifted leaders need to figure out how to follow if they want to make the most of their gift! 


  1. Good post. In my experiences, a very evident characteristic of both, good leaders and good followers, is CONFIDENCE. That may be a spiritual gift?

    1. Yes, Dad. I agree, confidence is key--as long as it in confidence in the Lord-- in his strength and his calling!

  2. Wow! Very thought provoking. And yes, you are a gifted leader and I love to hear about and share in the joy of your experiences in France.