Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Following Right When the Leader is Wrong.

I just heard one of the teachers at my youngest child's pre-school ask the class, "Who wants to be the line leader today?"  They all enthusiastically raised their hands.  Even at age 4, we humans are conditioned to think it is better to lead than follow.  

Yesterday in church, I talked about this whole business of being a follower, because all of us are.  We are all followers.  We are either good ones or bad ones, but following in some capacity is not a choice for any of us really.  So what kind of follower do I want to be?

King David had two followers that exemplify what it means to be either a good follower or a bad one.  When David needed to have Uriah, the Hittite (One of my ancient ancestors.  Get it?  "HItt-ite."  Never mind.) killed to cover up his one night stand with Uriah's wife and the resulting pregnancy, he gave the order to one of his followers - a general named Joab to put Uriah where fighting was heavy and then have the other soldiers back away so Uriah would be killed.  Joab had a choice to make.  He could risk his career and maybe even his life and challenge David, or he could obey and become complicit in murder.  Joab chose to do as instructed.

Another of David's followers viewed his responsibility to the King differently.  Nathan came to David about his actions with Uriah and Bathsheba.  He told David a story about a great injustice a rich man had inflicted upon a poor, innocent man.  David became emotional and swore to have the rich, unjust man killed if Nathan would identify him.  Nathan said to David, "You are the man."  It led David to see his sin for what it was and brought him to a place of great remorse and repentance. 
Most followers go along to get along.  They just avoid the subversion of truth or core values and hope it all blows over.  Others cannot let it go, but are not courageous enough and do not love the person, or group enough to speak up.  They just quietly pick up their ball and go home.  Both of these responses are sin.

Followers have a responsibility to speak up in love when the values that matter most are being subverted.  It does not matter that it's hard.  It does not matter that no one may want to hear it.  If we love the community, organization, family or church we part of, really good followers will speak the truth in love no matter what.  So be a great follower.

1 comment:

  1. To be a great follower is very difficult, and in some instances just as hard or harder then being a leader. There are two types of leaders that I have encountered that relate to this blog. The first leader is a leader that when a follower approaches with questions or concerns about a tasking, the leader tends to be standoffish while trying to hide the fact they are in fact annoyed with the question or concern in the first place, and take the concern as a question of their judgment.

    The problem with this type of leader is that they do not understand the impact they have on their followers. Non-verbal communication is more powerful then verbal communication. If a follower approaches a leader with questions or concerns and they are greeted with non-verbal communication that leads the follower to believe that their questions or concerns are not welcome, then they are from that point forward, going to be reluctant to speak up next time. Over time this communication becomes and unsaid rule that nothing is to be questioned or debated.

    The second type of leader is the kind of leader that when approached by a follower they become extremely receptive. They stop what they are doing at that moment to turn and face the follower inviting them in to their space, even if it is for a brief period giving their undivided attention. This leader uses verbal and non-verbal ques to let the follower know that it is OK to bring questions an concerns to the leaders attention.

    So, it becomes a question of what makes a good follower or a bad follower? How much does the leader have to do with the success of the follower? It would seem that in these two examples that the followers actions become a direct result of the leaderships actions towards the follower. A leader can say I welcome your questions and concerns, but their action(non-verbal communication) says otherwise. Does this mean that you have an out when there is a bad leader—No! The answer is definitely no, because not matter what, as long as you present your concerns in a pure and loving way; in a way that God would want you to, then you have done your duty to your leadership and to God!