Leading By Following

Leadership and   learning are indispensable to each other.

——- John F.Kennedy

I have discovered that a tried and proven way to develop leadership abilities is to be constantly learning from and following people who   have blazed the trail in your area of interest.  The notion that  because you  are  a leader you no longer need to  grow  or  be  accountable  to  someone else  is false. Also, this idea limits one’s ability to lead. Every leader should be following something.

No leader should ever be stagnant mentally, physically or spiritually. Great leaders are great seekers and learners; they allow themselves to be positively influenced constantly.  Leaders who are not following will reach a plateau and never reach their full potential.

When we looked at the life of Jesus Christ we saw that although He was a leader, He was constantly following the Father.

He continued this trend even when it became almost unbearable for Him in the garden of Gethsemane. He would later yield His will to His Father by allowing Himself to be subject to one of the most brutal execution methods known to man.

Another leader elevated through his dedication to followership was Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was known to have spent countless hours studying and “following” various historical ideals. He was a seeker and a follower of biblical precepts which served as a framework for the virtues he lived by. It is no surprise that he distinguished himself from his colleagues, not only as a statesman of repute, but, also as an innovator and inventor.

Let’s take another “case study”. Martin Luther King, Jr, the leader of the American civil rights movement in the sixties was greatly influenced by non violence as applied by Mohandas Gandhi of India. King was so inspired by Gandhi’s success with non-violent activism that he visited Gandhi’s birthplace in India in 1959.  In a radio address made during his last evening in India, King reflected,

“Since being in India, I am more convinced than ever before that the method of nonviolent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for justice and human dignity. In a real sense, Mahatma Gandhi embodied in his life certain universal principles that are inherent in the moral structure of the universe, and these principles are as inescapable as the law of gravitation. ”

[King, Jr., Martin Luther; Clayborne Carson; Peter Holloran; Ralph Luker; Penny A. Russell (1992). The papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.. University of California Press.]

Thus, one of the greatest civil rights leaders received inspiration simply by following.

In the scriptures there is an inspirational story about a centurion that came to Jesus to seek healing for a servant.  A centurion was a professional officer in the Roman army in command of between eighty to two hundred men.

The story goes like this:

“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.  “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and   heal him?” The   centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you   come under my roof.  But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.  I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” [Mat 8:5-9]

For our purpose, what is interesting is that when he met Christ, the centurion told Christ that he was a man under authority instead of saying he was a man with authority.  This difference in words means that the centurion was not blinded the authority of his position.  He realized his position over soldiers was really one of followership. The centurion’s understanding of this principle is further demonstrated by the fact he sought out Christ.  Though he held a leadership position, he realized he needed to follow another to receive what he needed, in this case, healing for his servant.

Except from the book Discovering Followership: Learn The Secrets Of Walking Behind And Still Staying Ahead by Omokhai Imoukhuede

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When Listening Speaks Louder Than Talking

I remember a conversation I had with my wife that went something like this.

My Wife:“Hey Babe, did you remember to make the deposit at the bank today?”

Me: “No babe I didn’t, I did not think I needed to do that again”

My Wife: ” Babe, remember I asked you to make a deposit yesterday because some payments will be coming out  from that account today?”

Me: “I thought you said not to make a deposit to the account because money was coming in today.” (My voice raised slightly).

My Wife: “No i did not say that, you see, you did not listen to what I was saying….”

Me: ” Well if you had explained or communicated clearly maybe I would have “listened” to what you were saying (speaking with some sarcasm).

Needless to say we did not hang up on each other thank God and for the sake of moving this write-up along, I will leave what happened next in the conversation to your imagination :-).

In any case, after the phone call,  I immediately realized that my wife and I had just experienced what I call a bad case of a “fundamental breakdown in communication.” This happens a lot in relationships, organizations and even in the government and most times it occurs when one party in the communication link fails to listen. For effective communication, we have to listen or else the result would be similar to the above mentioned scenario I presented.

Many times, we are so eager to push our agendas that we fail to listen to the subtle cues around us. In our quest to pass our points across, we unconsciously tune out the other party especially if there is no connection with that person.

In my book Discovering Followership: Learn The Secrets of Walking Behind and Still Staying Ahead,  I talk about how businesses or organizations have suffered immensely because leaders fail to listen to their subordinates for feedback.

Jesus asked his disciples the question “Who do men say that i am?” Luke 9:18b. He listened to what they had to say, he heard their concerns even though sometimes they were not always justifiable. Listening and getting feedback is just as important if not more important than speaking.

James 1:19 says “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry..”

The power of an individuals communication abilities is not in eloquence alone or in the ability to convey knowledge verbally, it is also in an individual’s ability to listen carefully especially to the hidden messages that have not been communicated verbally.

Regardless of the reasons why we can’t communicate properly with others, I believe that it is very essential for success in our relationships to listen carefully as we communicate.

So how can we grow in this area? what steps can we take to improve our listening abilities? I searched online for some write-ups on this and found this one quite helpful. Click  here to read more about some listening tips.

In conclusion, speaking is just one part of the equation for effective communication to occur. Listening is the other side of the equation, communication can never be complete without it. Listening affirms your commitment to the person you are communicating with. It will help develop patience and it often projects a sense that you really care. So take time to listen today, so that what you are trying to communicate will come across more effectively. God bless.

What lie are you believing about yourself?

I took some time off blogging to regroup, think and pray about what my focus as a blogger should be. A one month hiatus ended up becoming three months. For some reason, I just could not get myself motivated to post my writings. As days turned into weeks and then later into months, I began to get a bit concerned. It was not like I was experiencing the very common “writers block” because I had a few ideas on the topics to write about. The issue was that i just could not get through some internal struggles I was dealing with at the time.

My first diagnosis of my situation  was that I had no time for blogging and simply could not commit to following through with the intricacies of writing. Another conclusion I came up with, was that I was suffering from a chronic case of “bloggers fatigue,” if there is anything like that [I am sure we can relate].

However, upon close examination, I discovered that one of the root causes of my lack of motivation was that I had allowed some insecurities and some negative recurring thoughts [We all have them] about my short-comings on writing to permeate my mind.

I am very sure that we all have experienced moments of discouragement or stagnation.  If we can calm down for a second, we will realise that the cause of this feelings comes from an internal lie about your abilities that you have bought into, accepted and are now living out.

Someone said that the mind is like a photographic plate were “negatives” are developed. On the flip side, it can also be a photographic plate were “positives” are developed as well. The reality is that our minds can reproduce in multiple folds whatever we allow to become our most dominant thoughts.

So what lie have you believed about yourself today, is it the lie that you are a failure, slow or unintelligent? is it the lie that you can’t take your career, business, ministry or finances to the next level? Is it the lie that you can never amount to anything in life?

Regardless of what that lie is, look unto God and counteract those lies with the truth of God’s word. When you hear your mind saying you are worthless, retort by saying ” I may feel worthless but I definitely am of value to God, who gave His precious Son for me.” When you hear in your mind that you are going down and that you will never get back up again whether it is financially, physically or spiritually, say the reverse to yourself.

King Solomon, one of the wisest men that ever lived said “As a man thinks in his heart so is he… Proverbs 23:7.” You are what you think. That is why we need to flood our minds with the truth of God’s word, so that it dominates our minds.

God’s word is His truth about us. It is what God believes about you and  honestly, that is what counts the most. It is not really about what others think even though we should set good examples for others to follow. Ultimately, our motivation should be based on what God thinks about us. God is in the truth business, take sides with Him. Believe what God believes about you and watch how He would elevate you,  I know it worked for me. So write that blog, song or book, start that business, do the seminar, urge that co-worker, sing that song, exercise, just do it. You have what it takes and don’t believe the lies. Be happy to hear from you on this.

Learning Followership From The Master

“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
      Jesus Christ

When we  look for the  epitome of  leadership, I think it  is  safe  to  say  that  our  Lord Jesus Christ fits  the  bill.  He alone in three years raised a bunch of unlearned fishermen to become the pillars of the Christian faith. He was able to take these men who were filled with fear and doubt to great heights spiritually.  From  these  men, the  message of  God’s saving grace was  preached to  the  entire world. The world is still fascinated by Christ and His influence over many more than two thousand years after his earthly walk. While it is so obvious that our Lord Jesus possesses great leadership skills from which we can learn, we can also see that He was also a great follower.

At first, this may sound heretical but upon close examination, it is accurate.  Jesus’ life style on earth showed His willingness to obey and follow God’s lead in everything that He did.

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and  tears to the one who could save  him  from death, and  he was  heard because of  his  reverent  submission. Son though he was,  he  learned  obedience from what he  suffered and, once made perfect, he became the  source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.[Heb 5:7-9]

Jesus was reverently submissive to the Father, even though He was the first begotten Son. We can see that it was this characteristic that endeared him to the Father. The scriptures say that Christ learned obedience or followership from what He suffered.  He did not exempt himself from any of the requirements of the Law. He did not say, “I am God, so the law of followership doesn’t apply to me.”  He  went through every  step, following and  fulfilling  the  requirements  of  the  law  as  a true follower  of God the Father.

We see Jesus’ followership when He went to John for his baptism.   Even though John sought to bypass this act given Christ’s higher status, Jesus Christ insisted that scriptures needed to be fulfilled and submitted Himself for baptism. This would prompt a strong declaration of affirmation of the validity of Jesus’ place with God.

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased. [Luke 3:21-22]

God was pleased because Christ refused to take shortcuts; He refused to by-pass the process. Christ willingly gave Himself to followership, completely following the plans of the Father. Christ exemplifies this in the statement he made about God.

Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.[John 5:19]

Throughout His earthly journey (33 years), Christ’s preoccupation was to follow the commands and dictates of the Father without compromise. Christ was committed to only doing what He saw His Father do. If Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior practiced followership throughout the three years he was with His disciples and emphasized it so many times, shouldn’t we as followers of Christ, “follow” in His steps?

 [Excerpt from the book Discovering Followership: Learn The Secrets of Walking Behind and Still Staying Ahead by Omokhai Imoukhuede]

Curious to know your thoughts on followership and why it is not really discussed