Leadership and followership
Leadership and followership are closely intertwined. Effective followers can shape productive leader behaviour just as effective leaders develop people into good followers.
The role of followers
Followership is important in the discussion of leadership for the following reasons.
One, without followers there are no leaders. For any group or organization to succeed there must be people who willingly and effectively follow just as there must be those who willingly and effectively lead. If all “human beings are not only capable of being leaders but often called to exercise leadership” then everyone is a follower at one time or another. What I have seen is that individuals are often followers at one time.
Secondly, many leadership gurus define leadership as a “process of influence”. Professor J. Jansen writing in Leadership in the African context’s foreword emphasises that “leadership is not a position that is held but an influence that is felt… leadership is not simply technical set of skills exercised by a brainy leader, but also emotional disposition that influences human behaviour for good.” This view is good, but I would like to add that a follower can influence a leader. Simply because at its core leadership is relational. The follower’s influence upon a leader can enhance the leader or accentuate the leader’s short comings.
Third, many of the qualities that are desirable in a leader are the same qualities possessed by an effective follower (e.g. commitment, integrity, courage etc.). Ineffective followers are as much to blame for ethical and legal lapses within a country as are crooked leaders.
So we can’t talk about leadership and ignore followership. Both the leader and follower roles are proactive; together they can achieve a shared vision.
By training I am a theologian, a Pastor by calling. As such my world view is biblically influenced. I’m surprised that so much is said about leaders and so little about followers, especially in the church. The Bible says comparatively little about leadership and a great deal about followership. Jesus did not invite his disciples to be leaders immediately. He said “follow me”. Jesus wants leaders to be followers first. Good followers make best leaders.
The style of followership
Dr. Mamphela Ramphele has on several occasions urged South Africans to stop being “passive objects” and become active citizens. Her call is that of effective followership. Robert Kelley, made a research among leaders and followers and came up with five styles of followership.
These styles are categorised according to two dimensions. The first dimension is the quality of independent, critical thinking versus dependent, uncritical thinking. The second dimension is active versus passive behaviour. What we find in our country is the other four styles of followership. The alienated follower is a passive, yet independent, critical thinker. The conformist participates actively, but does not utilize critical thinking skills in his or her behaviour. The pragmatic survivor avoids risks and fostering the status core often for political reason. The passive follower exhibits neither critical, independent thinking nor active participation. Passive followers are often the result of leaders who are over controlling of others and who punish mistakes.
An effective follower is both a critical, independent thinker and active in the running of the country. They know what they stand for and willing to express their own ideas and opinions to their leaders, even though this might mean risking their jobs or being demeaned. Effective followers accept responsibility, challenge authority, participate in change, and serve the needs of the country.
God’s purposes for marriage
For God, the marriage covenant fulfils his purpose for marriage. There are three things that God accomplishes through marriage that he created us for and with.
(1) Sex: We are created with the longing for the other sex, not merely to satisfy the sex drive but also to fulfil an appetite for intimacy. As it was not good for Adam to be alone, it is also not good for us to be alone. We need to be in the lasting environment with someone. Short term disposable relationship cannot satisfy this desire. We cannot just get intimacy via therapy sessions or by exploring another person’s body. It is a fruit of lifetime of belonging to another person.
(2) Growth: We are created to grow or for growth and marriage is an invitation to grow up to become mature. Being in marriage, you position yourself in a state of being mentally, psychologically, physically and financially fit to be a parent to somebody. Being a parent means you cease being a child and accept adult responsibility. This demands growth.
(3) Love: We are created to love, and marriage is a great place to learn to love. To love is to put your partner’s needs before your own. To love is to make an unconditional commitment to an imperfect human being. Many people marry to be loved not to love.
Steward says that the purposes of marriage are:
A friend of God
James 2:23; Abraham: God’s Friend
Everybody needs a friend. In fact Philip Chesterfield says ‘a friend is a present you give yourself’. There are people who leave the entirety of their lives without a genuine friendship. Without a friend is to be like John the Revelator, on an island of Patmos far from the crossroads of human interaction. You and I need someone who is loyal and loving, somebody who is trusted and true, someone who will be devoted in dark hours, present in moments of pain, sympathetic in times of sickness and nearby when the road gets rough and the hills get hard to climb.
True friendship is hard to find
A friend is one who knows you and still loves you. As William ward puts it, ‘a true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.’
But, a good friend is hard to find. A real friend is one who attacks you in the front, who goes around saying nice things about you behind your back. Is it not true that a man is known by the company he keeps? The world judges you by the quality and character of the persons you call ‘friend’. A good friend is hard to find.
What looks like a friend may not be a friend! Cain and Abel had the same genetic background, they were brothers by blood, had the same parents, but the book says that Cain slew Abel in the field. Samson and Delilah were lovers. Delilah proves that even your lover may not be your friend. Delilah was the one who cut the seven locks of hair on Samson’s head and put him into the hands of his enemies. Job had three so called friends- one named Eliphaz, one named Bildad and one named Zophar- but in the time of Job’s deepest distress, in the time of his greatest need, all they were able to do was to sit for seven days and never say a word.
Even Jesus discovered that his closest associates could not be counted on. Deacon Peter denied him, deacon Thomas doubted him, and the treasurer of the board of disciples, one Judas Iscariot, sold him out for thirty pieces of silver and a field of blood.
The friendship of Abraham and God
There is a unique friendship in the bible. James said it existed between God and Abraham; ‘Abraham was called the friend of God’(James 2:23).
Only Abraham- no one else in biblical history (with the possible exception of Moses)- only Abraham was known as ‘the friend of God’. What does it take to be a friend of God?
Abraham believed and God believed Abraham
In the first instance Abraham believed God. When God said to him ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you…’ the scripture says Abraham left as the Lord had told him.
Abraham did not only believe God, but God believed Abraham. You remember on top of that mountain in the region of Moriah. God said ‘Do not lay a hand on the boy, do not do anything to him. Now I know you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ That’s what friendship with God is all about; it is about one believing the faithfulness of the other.
Abraham and God knew how to talk to each other
Secondly, the friendship of God with Abraham was predicted on the fact that they knew how to talk with each other. Not only did they talk with each other, not only did they maintain a lively communication, but they did not always agree with each other. In order to have a good friendship you do not need somebody that agrees with you all the time, takes your side on every issue, and always think your point of view is the is the best point of view. Good friends can argue and still be on the same side.
God and Abraham had an argument about Sodom one day. God decided the only thing he could do would be to destroy it. But Abraham objected saying ‘I wanted to ask what would you do if I found fifty righteous men or fourty five or twenty or even one righteous man in the city?’
God said, well Abraham you have a good point; if you find one I won’t destroy the city. What I am trying to say is that God and Abraham were good friends. If you are to be a friend of God, you’ve got to talk to him and he has to talk to you.
Abraham and God had encountered birth experience
Friends share some common stuff. It took Abraham 100 years to have a son. And then there came a time when his friend asked him to sacrifice Isaac. Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father? The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb. Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
Well it took God 42 generations to answer Isaac’s question “where is the lamb?” maybe Abraham asked God, why did you let Isaac live when I was ready to sacrifice him? But God told Abraham ‘my friend I had to let your son live in order to save the nation. I had to to let your son live because in Isaac was Jacob, and in Jacob was the twelve tribes of Israel. But Abraham, My Son died to save the world. My son died to answer Isaac’s question. Where is the Lamb? He is the Lamb, which takes away the sin of the world. He is the dying lamb.
Jesus our friend
There is a friend who can stick closer than a brother. One day he said: ‘I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.’ His name is Jesus.