Leadership is a complex phenomenon involving the leader, the followers, and the situation. Can one lead unless someone follows? An old ancient Chinese proverb says, “He who leadeth and no one followeth is only taking a walk.”
The key to effective leadership is in learning to lead so others will follow. Robert Kelly* wrote a chapter entitled “In Praise of Followers,” in The Leader’s Companion.
He stated, “Our preoccupation with leadership keeps us from considering the nature and the importance of the follower.” He describes the essential qualities of effective followers:
They manage themselves well.
- They are committed to the organization and to a purpose, principle or person outside themselves.
- They build their competence and focus their efforts for maximum impact.
- They are courageous, honest, and credible.
Organizations that want the benefits of effective followers must find ways of rewarding them, ways of bringing them into full partnership in the enterprise.
Successful churches are packed with effective followers. Church volunteers should never be taken for granted nor asked to sacrifice unless the leader is also willing to sacrifice. “Not equal gifts, but equal sacrifice” is the rallying cry of capital stewardship campaigns in churches.
Kelly declared, “Imagine for a moment the power of an organization blessed with fully engaged, fully energized, fully appreciated followers.”
*Kelley, Robert E. In Praise of Followers. The Leader’s Companion, ed. J. Thomas
Wren, 193-204. New York: Free Press, 1995.