There is much debate as to whether leaders are born or made… can someone really be a born leader? From the perspective of spiritual leadership, I would argue every leader is developed through the school of hard knocks (and other processes) as God shapes and moulds our character in order that we become Christ-centred servant leaders. Consider Moses, David, Job, Mary, Peter and Stephen.
But maybe a more critical question for Christian leaders is not ‘are we born leaders?’, but ‘are we effective followers?’ The essential unifying quality of every Christ-centred servant leader is that they are first and foremost a follower. No-one ever uses the phrase “born-follower”. However, when we were born-again, we acknowledged our utter dependence upon Christ… and we should therefore recognise that our effectiveness in leadership will be directly proportional to our followership of Him. John Hayes writes, “Learning to follow seems to have become a lost art, and yet, Jesus talks far more about following than He does about leading”.
To be a great leader, you firstly need to be a great follower. This principle is defined by the phrase Grab a Towel and could be summed up by the Apostle Paul’s words, ‘Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ’ (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul became arguably the greatest Christian leader in history because he was the greatest follower in Christian history. Paul took Christ’s own words seriously: ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ (Luke 9:23 ESV). We can only lead others because we are serving Christ, and in serving Christ we learn that the only true form of leadership is servanthood. As Jesus said, ‘Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:44-45).
Our commitment to followership also bears influence upon how we define success as servant leaders. Success for servant leaders does not equate to how many people are following us - in our organisation, churches or on Twitter. Rather, the indicator for success is how many people are following Christ as a result of our leadership. Stacy Rinehart concurs, “The heart of spiritual leadership, then, is serving people – looking out for what is best for them rather than using them as the means to a larger end. The question is not ‘Does the leader have followers?’ but rather, ‘Does the Lord have followers as a result of the leader’s influence?’” (Rinehart 1998:109).
In your aspiration to be a great leader are you firstly seeking to be a great follower?
- John Hayes 2006. Sub-merge: Living deep in a shallow world. p. 281
- Stacy T Rinehart 1998. Upside Down. p, 109