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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