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Followership: How to Be a Great Team Member

Followership: How To Be A Great Team Member

“That the leaders led in Israel, and that the people volunteered, O bless the Lord!” (Judges 5:2)

“For the body is not one member, but many… If they were all one member, where would the body be?” (I Corinthians 14:14,19)

A man wrote to Reader’s Digest telling how his daughter had gone off to a woman’s university and he had received a letter from the dean. “We’re surveying the freshman class,” he said. “Please tell us about your daughter by completing the enclosed questionnaire.”

One question read: “Would you call your daughter a leader?” The dad wrote, “I’m not sure I’d call her a leader. But she’s a great player, someone you really want on your team.”

A few days later, he received a letter from the dean. “I thought you’d be interested in knowing,” he wrote, “that our freshman class of 250 young women is composed of 249 leaders and one follower. Your daughter.”

Everyone likes to think of themselves as leadership material. To be a follower is not glamorous. No kid announces to the family that when he grows up, he plans to be a team member. Few books—if any!—are written on the subject of how to be a great follower or team member.

My friend Vince Lee wrote the other night. “Your website has all kinds of articles on leadership. But no one ever writes anything on how to be a great follower. How about it?”

Great idea, Vince. Thank you.

I know about following.

I should be an authority on following. I’ve been a follower all my life, with a few times-out to take the lead in something or other.

That might take some explaining. After all, I’ve pastored six churches for 42 years and then served in denominational leadership for five years. So, how is it I have been a follower for all my life?

–I went to school. At no point was I the leader of the school. Not even the class or the Beta Club. (OK, I was president of the FFA, but in name only.)

–I worked in secular jobs. In college, I worked weekends as a clerk-typist at the railroad yards for the Pullman Company. After college, for two years I worked as the secretary to the production manager of a cast iron pipe company. During seminary, I worked afternoons in a huge office at the Coca-Cola Bottling Company. At every level, I had bosses and took orders. I was a small cog in a large wheel

–I’ve been a member of the PTA, but never its leader. A member of the chamber of commerce, but never its leader. A member of the board of trustees of a Baptist medical center, but never its leader. A trustee of our SBC International Mission Board, but never its leader. A member of the board for several state Baptist conventions, but never their leader.

You get the idea.

And, there is one other thing that might qualify me to pen something on followership: As a pastor of churches and a denominational “director of missions,” my work depended on a large corps of volunteers. Our teams were often large and sometimes unwieldy. The stories I could tell on this subject.

So, here are 10 things on FOLLOWERSHIP I’ve learned over the decades. Oh, and don’t miss the final scripture. It knocks this out of the park…

One. Not everyone is meant to be a leader. So, do not beat yourself up if you find yourself constantly refusing when asked to be chairman of the deacons or to lead a big project. You know yourself better than anyone. Find your slot and work it well.

Two. No leader leads in every area. When the president of General Motors goes to the PTA, he is put on a committee and takes orders. When the college president joins the chamber of commerce, they put him/her on the beautification committee and he/she learns to lead by following. When the President of the United States goes to church, he is not in charge but is following the leadership of the pastor.