Tag: Leadership

You Won’t Be Your Best Leader Until You Do This


There is a lot of cultural emphasis on becoming and being a good leader. Additionally, there is plenty of conversations on how to develop others into good leaders. I have read numerous books and blogs on leadership, many of which had great content. Realistically the characteristics of good leadership are pretty standard across the board. However, there is one quality often overlooked regarding leadership; followership. Followership is a critical aspect of good leadership. Following well equips you to lead well, when the time comes. And, without having been a successful follower; you will likely never be your best leader.

In the last decade or so, followership has been edged out of the leadership discussion. But, learning how to follow is integral to learning how to lead. When choosing someone for a leadership position, one of the first attributes I look for is a history of successful followership. It is in that experience of following that a leader is able to understand what others need in an effective leader. That experience also afford a leader with a clearer picture of those people being led. A leader who was a good follower is more likely to value those being led, rather than viewing them as “capital.”

At some point all of us will be placed in the role of follower. In fact, it is in our role as a follower that we are equipped to fulfill our other roles (leader, spouse, parent) in healthy and effective ways. What does an effective follower look like? A good follower is:


Respect for the authority of those we are following, or working for, but also for those we interact with on a daily basis. There will be instances when we are placed under the authority of someone who does not lead well. The ability to remain respectful, and acknowledge authority, will develop our character. Experience under a poor leader will provide the opportunity to study ineffective leadership and avoid similar mistakes in the future. Followership is the act of mindful submission to authority, even poorly executed authority.


Not only being confident in the person leading you, but also in why you are following them. A confident follower knows where they stand and what they stand for. Confident followers are aware of their gifts and abilities. They understand how they contribute to the success of the team and their leader. Seasoned confidence is a vital characteristic for transitioning to a leadership role.


Difficult situations call for experience in knowing when and how to speak. Tact is action, tempered by sensitivity and wisdom. Knowledgeable and confident leaders are tactful. As a leader, your tact will help garner trust from those you interact with and especially those who follow you.

Servant Hearted

As a follower, servanthood is not the bowing down to a tyrannical boss. Instead, servant hearted following is a decision to develop a character of humility and compassion. It is a desire to serve the people you work for and with, because you value them. A servant’s heart expresses genuine concern for others. The humility and compassion a leader needs to serve those they lead is developed as a follower. When those you lead experience your compassion and respect, you will envoke a willingness to follow you and fulfill the mission.


John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Learning is a forever event. To lead is to always be learning. Followers settle early into their role as student and carry that into leadership. Being teachable means knowing that there is always more to learn and that it can come from anyone.

Even if you are already in a leadership role, it is never too late to learn followership. Become a good follower. If you work for someone, become intentional about following him or her well. If you work for yourself, find someone who is beyond you in experience and wisdom, and put yourself under their leadership.

Ultimately, the most important follower role that we will ever take on, is being a follower of Jesus. He is the definitive Follower; in that He laid aside His divinity and obediently followed God’s plan to the cross; so that we could follow Him into glory. When we enter into that follower role, everything changes. It is then that our expectations for what makes a great leader elevates to unimaginable levels.

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

~ Philippians 2:5-8 ~

Transparency isn’t the best you have to offer.


Transparency is often billed as on of the most important traits a leader can have. I mean, people like the Dalai Lama saying things like, “A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” How do you argue with the Dalai Lama? I assume if you tried, he might just hug you. The point being, if you were to ask any number of leaders what are the most important traits of leadership, odds are transparency would be on that list. But, I’m not convinced that transparency is the best that a leader has to offer. I’ll can take that a step further and say that I’m not even sure that transparency is the best you can offer to the community of people you’re doing life with.

When we talk about transparency there’s this idea that it means our life is completely open for others to observe and peer into. We also attach the idea of being completely honest with our thoughts, feelings, emotions and struggles. That transparency is supposed to extend to anyone who has even the slightest connection to you; if you’re a leader, that means any one that follows you. If you’re in community with others, that means everyone you “do” life with.  Leaders talk about the importance of transparency in community and then try to demonstrate it by example. Unfortunately, I know enough leaders to know that transparency is often more of a pipe dream than something that is actually fully practiced. But it isn’t for not wanting to. I think people know there is a benefit to allowing others equal access to the attractive and unattractive areas of their life. The problem is that fear of being hurt or taken advantage of is stronger than the desire for openness in our relationships. The truth is that sometimes there’s no benefit to either party in allowing that type of full access. So, we tell others how important transparency is, while hiding certain areas, and pretending that you’re living a life of full disclosure. That’s not the best. At the least it creates false closeness in our relationships. At the worst, it creates unrealistic expectations, setting people (leaders especially) on pedestals. When those expectations aren’t met, or a leader fails in an area, it’s devastating. Transparency forces you to say, “Everyone has access to every part. No matter how private or hurtful.” It removes that ability to differentiate the depths of our different relationships.

So, if transparency isn’t the best, what is? I’m going to say a word that no doubt has been over used in the past ten years; Authenticity. I know, I know. You’re mind probably just flashed to some saggy-beanie wearing, Christian hipster who’s sitting in a hole-in-the-wall coffee-house, drinking his reverse-drip, syphon-separated, goat-milk, half-caff, latte and talking about how he’s seeking an authentic faith in an authentic missional community of authentic believers pursuing authentic communal living. But, it’s overuse doesn’t diminish the truth of it’s importance. I think that authenticity trumps transparency every time. Authentic is simply being real, or genuine, with others. It doesn’t try to force you to open areas that you may not be ready to open. Authentic allows you to say, “I am deeply struggling with something, but it isn’t for you to know about. Instead, it’s reserved for two other people who are helping me walk through it.” Authenticity allows you to be honest with others, while still maintaining a wise level of privacy. Authenticity allows you the ability to be really real with everyone, while allowing you the freedom to cultivate depth in a few really important relationships. Authentic allows you to be open with those people who will help you grow and avoid openness with those that would just assume tear you down.

With that said, transparency isn’t useless and shouldn’t be abandoned. In systems and structures transparency is crucial. If you tithe to a church, 100% transparency in those financial records is necessary for accountability sake. Transparency in your mission as a community is equally necessary, because people should to be able to easily perceive the motives of your group. Transparency in your leadership building process allows people to know what to expect as you work through developing them. Transparency in the context of systems provides the ability for people joining you in community to see more clearly into what they’re joining. Transparency in structures and programs works far better than it does as a trait for a person.

When you shoot for authentic, you get the right amount of transparency with the right people.

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If I’m being completely transparent here, we’re not going to ever be completely open to everyone, nor should we be, but we can be completely real with everyone. Some people won’t understand or accept that, but those are the people who solidify the argument that it doesn’t benefit everyone for you to give unfettered access to everyone. When you shoot for authentic, you get the right amount of transparency with the right people.

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My Kingdom Come, Not Yours God

used from http://christinaammerman.com/why-you-cant-make-more-money/

I’ve been on a little bit of a John the Baptist kick the last couple weeks. My favorite thing about John is his dedication and faithfulness to his call to prepare the way for Jesus. In addition to that, I love the humility that comes with his faithfulness. His whole ministry revolves around him decreasing so that Christ can increase. I hope to be half that type of leader and follower. There have been times, while leading various ministries that I have had to stop and check myself to make sure that I wasn’t trying to build my kingdom, over God’s Kingdom. In those times I would reflect on John the Baptist to help baseline what I was doing and to check myself before I wrecked myself. I am truly sorry for that, but it was necessary.

In that baseline, there were a few measures that I used as filters to help determine whose kingdom was being built. Obviously this isn’t all inclusive, but they were helpful. Here’s three ways that know that your pastor/church leader is more concerned about building God’s Kingdom, rather than his.

1.  He points people toward Jesus, rather than himself.

The most important thing that John knew to be true was that nothing was about him. He knew that he existed for one purpose and that was to point people to Christ. He spent his life preaching the coming of The Christ and that rattled and frustrated the religious leaders. There was a lot of speculation that he might be the Messiah, or Elijah or the Prophet of old, but John was quick to confess, “I am not the Christ.” In fact, John was very clear in what his purpose was. He said that he baptized with water “that he [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel.” Everything John said pointed people to Jesus. 

I heard a story at work last week about a lady that said she was surprised at how much they talked about Jesus during an Easter Sunrise Service. I’m not going to mention how ridiculous that statement is. The point is, that should never be anyone’s response to our churches. Even if the only thing an unbeliever knows about Jesus is His name, they should not be shocked to hear it over and over in our churches and dare I say our everyday life. As Christians in general, everything we do; the way we talk, work, interact with others, lead, follow, serve, love, everything, should point toward Jesus. That requirement is increased with church leaders and pastors because their positions only exist to point people to Jesus; and yes that includes preparing people to work in His ministry. Leaders that talk about their accomplishments more than what God is doing, are probably more concerned about their kingdom.

2.  He prepares goers.

Even before Jesus commanded His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations,” John the Baptist was preparing disciples to follow Jesus. John explained himself as “the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” He saw himself a person called to prepare people to follow Jesus. He knew his task, his calling, was to prepare people for Jesus’ arrival, identify Him once He had come and then move out of the way. A leader that is concerned with building God’s Kingdom prepares people to follow Jesus and equips them to go “do the work of the ministry.” Leaders and pastors are preparers; they are equippers. If a pastor doesn’t understand that, then they don’t understand their role in the body and they’re likely to be less concerned about building God’s Kingdom and more about building one around them.  The other side of that coin reveals a leader’s willingness to release people as they’re prepared. Not only did John prepare people to go with Christ, he didn’t stop them when it was time for them to leave. That brings us to our last point.

3.  He doesn’t discourage people from leaving.

John the Baptist was a pro at this; you might miss it if you don’t read carefully. John 1:35-37 says, “The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.” John was so pro, he didn’t even say anything to the two disciples; he just let them go. They knew what they were called to and they followed, with no objection from John and both stayed with Jesus. John had been preparing people for Jesus’ arrival and that included his disciples, who he obviously expected to eventually leave him so that they could follow Jesus.

I once heard a pastor say, “The right way to view your congregation is to consider every person, sitting in every pew a church planter.” The point he was making was that Jesus didn’t make any of His followers exempt when He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” and “…you will be my witnesses…to the end of the earth.” All His followers received the Great Commission and we’re all obligated to building His Kingdom. Of course that doesn’t mean that every congregant will plant some huge mega-church, but everyone is gifted to contribute to building The Kingdom in some way. When I’ve had the opportunities to lead, I always tried to encourage an atmosphere of “Yes”. If someone came and said they wanted to start something new, my first response was “Yes.” That didn’t mean I led it, funded it or even resourced it, but I absolutely encouraged them, spent time cultivating the passion for it and providing guidance and counsel as I was able. If it didn’t work, ok, try again next time. If it did work then sweet. While discernment is a gift and wholly important, I struggle with the idea that a leader can or should tell someone that they’re not called or meant to lead or minister in a certain area or way. It almost places your vision higher than what God may be calling them to and because we’re not able to see how God works in another’s heart, I’d rather say yes, than be the roadblock to God doing what He wants.

I never wanted to lose people, I loved them and moving on sucks, but if they came to me and felt like God was calling them to something new, I didn’t try to make them stay or discourage them from what they felt God was saying to them. As a leader it wasn’t my place to define God’s call on them. Instead, I was called to equip them to leave. When you view it that way, it becomes far less about your ability and kingdom and completely about God’s infinite ability and The Kingdom. 

Building our kingdom is about adding. We add until we overwhelm an area. We add until we’re confident we have enough to be a “major player” in whatever game we’re in. It rarely involves multiplying. It may involve duplication, because we can still control that because it’s simply and extension of the same. But, multiplication is different than duplication. (To be clear and before any pastors flip out, this is not a dig on churches planting campuses. I attend a church with seven campuses and they have a heart for sending and it’s evident that the lead pastor is wholly concerned with building God’s Kingdom.) Multiplication is not “more of the same” and brings the very real and almost assured element of change. There may be similarities, but multiplication in God’s Kingdom, surrenders human control to divine control and allows that new thing to be what God has called it to be, for the sake of His Kingdom. Not everyone will go, but as leaders our commission it to prepare everyone as if God is going to call them to go.

What are some other ways that might show a leaders heart for building God’s Kingdom?

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