Follow as I Follow

One beautiful aspect of this digital age is the capacity to scan in old documents and free up precious bookshelf space. My bookshelves once held massive black notebooks, full of more than 30 years of preaching manuscripts. I’ve slowly been scanning them in, giving me opportunity to re-read some awful as well as some beautifully tender stuff, in addition to gaining board footage for boxed up books I had not found room for previously.

Because I’ve been a lifelong student of the leadership arts, such themes often find their way into what I’ve spoken across a great variety of pulpits and lecterns. Here is an excerpt regarding followership from an ordination sermon I preached for a beloved protégé. The text was 2 Samuel 23:13-17, when Kind David’s recklessly heroic friends went behind enemy lines to fetch water that David had pined for.

“Good followership is as important as good leadership if any endeavor will succeed."

“We know that the best leaders, able to lead well throughout their lifetimes, are also excellent at following when that is their role because they understand the importance and interplay of the two roles. They know that if they attempt to lead at all times they are not leaders, but despots, standing in the tradition of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao."

“While we might question the wisdom in the actions of the three heroes of this story, we do not question their courage, or their desire to contribute to the well-being and joy of the one to whom they pledged support. The church and [organizations] everywhere need more followers like these. We have too many who are gravely defeated, or living in their wounds. Too many seek their welfare at [others’] expense. Too many of us expect to have the right to do what we want, however we might want to. [What leaders actually think or behave differently?]  There are far too few who give themselves unhesitatingly out of love,…” 

A good coaching question to ask any leader is: Who is it that you follow?

And a follow-up question. And, just how well are you doing it?


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Mark L. Vincent (PhD, CCNL) is the Director of the Convene Consulting Network. He is also the CEO of Design Group International, an organizational development company providing wise guidance for enterprise, nonprofits, and ministry organizations. His passion is to love leaders as they claim their life vocation as stewards of enterprise.