See me new… my challenge to the followers of an ever-growing leader

I recently spent time with a group of precious NGO leaders in Malawi discussing some of the practices of Christ-like servant leadership. What an honor it was to be with this leadership team and an even greater blessing to see its team leader, a former student of mine, modeling and acknowledging the practices of his gradate program of nearly a decade ago!

As we wrapped up our time together and were reviewing some of the challenges of putting the ideas to practice, one of my old lessons came out….

“The group of people who will have the hardest time accepting your new ‘servant leadership posture’ is the group you now lead.”

Read that again…

“The group of people who will have the hardest time accepting your new ‘servant leadership posture’ is the group you now lead.”

Why? Because, for better or worse, we have come to expect certain behaviors of our leaders and have learned to navigate around them. IF THEY CHANGE, SO MUST WE…

“He doesn’t listen”…. Now he wants to sit with me weekly and hear my views of the organization

“He plays favorites”… now he is including everyone in giving input into strategic direction regardless of title, gender or tribal affiliation.

“He micro manages my work”…. Now he is giving me an end goal and expecting me to reach it myself?!

Generally speaking, we don’t like change and we are suspicious when leaders exhibit new behaviors, even if we have longed for those behaviors for some time. The world expects leaders to be “fully baked”, completely finished, fully developed by the time they reach some point of positional leadership. But this is not Biblical, I believe true leadership emerges through the relationships of leading; between leader and God, between leaders and followers. I am reminded daily, that I am “fully saved, not yet fully sanctified”…. I’m on the journey of becoming…   It takes a GREAT deal of humility for a leader, already in a positional leadership role, to acknowledge that God has shown him/her something further to develop, and for them to actually set about developing it! A great deal of humility! And this makes God smile.

So, my charge to you, Oh Follower, is this…. If you know there’s some aspect of leadership that the leader around you is developing….   PRAY for them, set aside your internal critic or internal cynic who would normally respond “yeah, let’s see how long this behavior lasts”….   ENCOURAGE them… point out the new behavior and how it makes you feel – without patronizing…. “I’ve noticed that you seem more eager to hear my ideas a bit more lately, I just wanted you to know how much I feel valued by that action”.   And MODEL IT yourself! Lord knows, followers could use a bit of development as well!

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. – 2 Cor 5: 16-19 (NIV)


About Dr. Beth A. Birmingham

Follower of Jesus, peculiar at times, but not always in the good biblical sense of the word, professor of leadership and international development, walking with people and organizations who end poverty, fight injustice and stand with the vulnerable... a rockin' good group of people!

Posted on April 14, 2014, in Followership, Leadership, Servant Leadership and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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