Following by Leading

There is a replication effect in leadership: good leaders inspire other leaders to follow and then lead others. In my experience, the leaders who held more than the title of ‘leader’ were the ones who not only gave me instruction, but also inspired me to want to follow that instruction. Often the instruction was exampled while it was taught. In every instance I can think of, the best leaders gave me more than mandates and rules; they encouraged me to lead, too.

The phrase “work yourself out of a job” sounds nice, but in practice it means a leader must do only that work which they alone can do and literally give everything else away for others to accomplish. The success of a leader in working themselves out of a job is directly proportional to their dedication of equipping others to do work within their unique gifts and strengths. It seems counter-intuitive, but when a leader gives away the work (and empower with both responsibility and delegated authority) that others can do, they become more valuable to the team because they’re scaling the productivity and results beyond their personal capacity.

Following a leader who inspires me is, in essence, enabling me to lead myself and others through change. All change, as my friend Jeff Hook says, is bad – in the short term. Change, therefore, is simultaneously the greatest responsibility of a leader and the difference between being a leader and a manager.

I do not recall who said it, but this sums up the principle of leading through change:

The degree to which leaders are able to manage change, gain consensus, and sustain commitment will determine the success (or failure) of any transformation initiative.

The leaders I serve at my own church have, without exception, given me all the rope I need to hang them. They’ve worked with me, mentored me and challenged me through relationship, over time, to give me greater and greater responsibility as a volunteer leader. They didn’t give me enough rope to hang myself; they gave so much away that I now have enough rope to hang them. In many, many churches, this level of trust with accountability is never delegated to volunteers because the leaders often lead out of fear and some level of insecurity. It is absolutely easier to not give away their job when they have all the rope neatly coiled at their feet, but the leader’s effectiveness is clearly limited by their own capacity to do more.

I don’t fear my leaders because I love my leaders. Those who have walked life with me long enough know my loyalty is to the Kingdom first and them second. This is why I’d never use the rope to hang them; I don’t need to fear the rope because I love the giver of the rope. I can’t think of a single leader I serve at my church that I could not ask any question that would be out of bounds if my question came from a heart of love and trust.

When I’m inspired and directed to lead others, I know I have authority because I’m under delegated authority, just like the Centurion in Matthew and Luke. Are you following by leading?






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