Martha is a high school friend of our family who happens to be on the search committee for the new pastor of our church. Over lunch last week, we were talking about her experience on the committee and her thoughts about the leadership role this new person will take.
Martha is a bright young woman, and one particular comment stood out as an insight of extraordinary wisdom.
He shouldn't come in with an agenda. Instead, he should follow what we are doing already, and learn how to lead us.
The idea that leaders should follow is not precisely the same thing as followership. That has more to do with how those who follow can lead. This idea of Martha's is instead the idea that leaders should follow at times.
For this to happen it requires three capacities.
First, the capacity of personal maturity that allows for a new leader not to be intimated by a new setting and new people to lead.
Second, the capacity of humility that enables the leader to recognize that he or she doesn't have all the answer, doesn't know all the information necessary, and does not have a sufficient breadth of relationships to lead without following.
Third, the capacity to listen, observe and learn from others.
Many leaders are ill-prepared for a position of authority. They may have certain analytical skills that makes for good decision-making. But they lack these personal attributes that are often the difference between effective and ineffective leadership.
New leaders would be wise to listen to Martha and recognize that learn to follow is an asset that will pay dividends as their tenure as leader is played out.