So much has been written about leadership. But how much do we hear about being a great follower? How can you be a great leader if you never learned to be a great follower?
Let's begin by asking ourselves some important questions and see how Jesus answers these questions by being a follower first.
Great Leaders Focus on Others
How do we stay focused on our goals, our reason for existence, our plans, and not become focused on ourselves? Jesus’ life clearly models this and the success that Jesus had as a leader and helps us to understand how we can lead this way.
- Wasn't Jesus deeply committed to his own goals?
- Didn't he believe in his reason for existence so fiercely that he gave up his own life rather than compromise his mission?
- Weren't his plans higher than customs and laws, so much greater than his short three-year ministry that would forever redefine religion?
The answer to all those questions is yes. But somehow, Jesus was not about himself. Jesus was about others. His ministry, his focus, his plans, they were all for the sake of the people he came to serve, and they were always done under the authority of another greater than himself.
That is also how we should do it. We must model Jesus. Jesus was a powerful leader because he was a committed follower who never sought to be anything other than exactly who God called Him to be.
Oh, to have his devotion, his faith and to know who we are called to be with such intense focus. To be a follower is the first step of being a leader of consequence.
5 Leadership Qualities of Jesus
A man I greatly admire, Dr. Gene Wilkes, wrote a book called "Jesus on Leadership." Let’s look at five things Dr. Wilkes brings out in his book that we see Jesus do as a leader:
- Jesus stated his intentions.
Good leaders make it clear what they intend to do. Every leader has an agenda—the ultimate mission he has been called to. When others begin to see that agenda, the leader has done his job! Because with their change in vision, they will also start to follow that agenda, and believe and act considering that passion.
- Jesus was serious about building relationships.
Relationships are everything in leadership. Without a culture of high trust, true empowerment can neither be established nor sustained. Trust destroys an atmosphere of control and creates an air of freedom. He did not dictate authority or lord his gifts over people. He walked alongside people. He modeled what he asked them to do.
- Jesus never sought a position.
People can follow when their view of leadership is corrected. Confusion arises when you equate higher positions with leadership, especially when it comes to the things of God. While position can present opportunities for leadership, position does not guarantee you are a leader. If position is honored above discipleship (being a follower), even church leaders will honor the ambitious over the obedient. Jesus never confused the two, in his own ministry, in the hearts of those he ministered to, nor in the hearts of those he called to walk with him.
- Jesus was a follower first.
Jesus wanted his disciples to be followers first. So, he demonstrated what it looked like. Ambition is not the same thing as a willingness to follow Jesus to the cross.
Great leadership starts with being a great follower. Become a follower and demonstrate to your people your willingness to serve.
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