Following the Leader

from Mar 09, 2013 Category: Articles

I don’t much care for physics. Never did. That, of course, doesn’t keep me from being grateful for physicists, and for engineers. This message has reached you through the labors of men who do care about such things. But usually when physicists start talking about wormholes, or engineers start talking about heat transfer rates, my mind begins to wander.

In like manner I have precious little time for books, articles, seminars about “leadership.” It strikes me as profoundly odd that “leadership” has become its own area of study, its own skill set, its own industry. I recognize, of course, that leadership is a real thing, a valuable thing. I have people in positions of leadership over me, and in turn I am a position of leadership over others. That said, it may be a sure sign of leadership failure on my part but I have never thought to myself, “I need to learn how to be a better leader.”

The questions I seek to ask myself when evaluating my interaction with those under my authority are far more fundamental, far more basic. I want to know if I encouraged my charges on to righteousness. I want to know if I treated them as I wish to be treated. I want to know if I exhibited patience with their frailties. I want to know if I was willing and eager to forgive, as I would like to be forgiven. In short, the measure of my “leadership” isn’t found in how well I measured up to some guru’s principles. Instead it is measured by how well I measure up to my Lord’s commands. To put it another way, I am far less worried about how I lead God’s people and far more worried about how well I follow God’s Son.

I fear that the seeming obsession the broader culture has with “leadership” as a concept, and the concomitant obsession of the church with the same theme is not a good sign. Given the lopsided attention given to leadership, isn’t it likely that we all give short shrift to our calling to follow not just Jesus, but those whom He has placed in authority over us? What does it say about us that while the Bible does from time to time talk both about leading and following, all our attention is on leading? Are we listening with lopsided ears?

Even when we get closer to getting it right we get it wrong. We talk about servant leadership, which on its face is indeed a good thing. But doesn’t that suggest that the reason we follow, or serve, is so that we can lead? What about servant servantship? If service is merely a means to the end of becoming leaders, if we race our brothers to the back of the line because we all desperately want to be at the front of the line, if we give with our right hand so that we might receive with our left, we’re not following Jesus aright. Followers, of course, don’t often write books or lead seminars on following, or on anything else for that matter. But that’s okay. We don’t become good followers by following a good follower. We become good followers by following the Good Leader.