Being a Leader Others Will Follow

Following, and the motivations of followers


by Brent Colby/ September 13, 2016

Without a doubt, the most essential quality of leadership, and perhaps the most overlooked component, is that of followership. The fact that you may not have known “followership” was even a word helps to prove my point. We talk a lot about leadership but remain mute on the motivations of those whom we wish to lead. It is time for many of us to graduate from leadership preschool and take our first steps toward a follower-centric model, where we can honestly answer the question, Am I a leader that others want to follow?

We all begin as self-centered leaders. Our first step on the leadership journey is to discover who we are and how we can grow. This is self-mastery, which is a prerequisite for healthy leadership. Think about it—you don’t take nutrition advice from a fat uncle, financial advice from a broke friend, or parenting advice from a childless brother. So why would you follow a leader who doesn’t learn or grow? The answer is simple: you wouldn’t. The natural way for you to begin developing as a leader is to get your stuff together first. The vast majority of you love this phase because it focuses on your favorite subject: you! But this can become a trap for many who spend their entire life understanding and developing themselves as a solo act. At some point you must graduate from leadership preschool.

What does elementary school look like for leaders? It looks like other people. We must begin to move beyond self-discovery and self-development to the discovery and development of others. Excellent leaders are outward focused and know how to help others grow. The emphasis on other people separates leadership-zeros from leadership-heroes. Understanding other people is the first step in becoming someone worth following. The second step is figuring out how to help others grow.

One of the most difficult things about growing up is that we no longer remain at the center of the world. Developing a knowledge and understanding of other people helps us realize that there are needs, wants, and desires greater than ours. In a ministry context, we discover that true success is found by helping others succeed. Becoming a leader that others want to follow means that you have discovered a way to help people grow.

Are you a leader that other people want to follow? You can be, by developing a model of leadership that puts your followers first and by investing into their success. There is one sure way to assess whether or not you are this type of leader already. Your character as a leader is shown by the character of those who follow you. Take a look behind and see what type of people are following you. Are they winning? Growing? And do they feel like you care? If you can answer yes to these questions, then you’re a leader worth following.