Why Would Anyone Want To Be Led By You? Or Me?


Why Be Led By You - 1The year is nearly over. Many leaders and leadership teams are taking their annual step back to do a deep-dive assessment of their organization’s progress against the goals and objectives of their strategic plans. (What? You don’t do that at your organization?  Maybe that is part of what is holding the organization back.)

As part of your end-of-year strategic progress review, consider including another area of assessment — one that will require a different kind of evaluation and be much more introspective in nature. Why not take some time to also consider how you personally are progressing as a leader? After all, an organization’s strategic performance is, in large part, a direct reflection of the effectiveness of the person at the top.

If you want to silence a room of pastors, executives, or any group of leaders try this small trick. Ask them, “Why would anyone want to be led by you?”

Without fail the response will most likely be a sudden, stunned hush. All you will hear are knees knocking and crickets chirping.

I work with pastors a lot. And this group has good reasons to be concerned. Churches are in decline.  And everyone is looking around for a reason.  Few are looking inward.  But pastors are not unique in this lack of self-awareness.  Business and commercial enterprises are full of leaders without a compelling case for followship.

Why Led By You - 2But the problem is that you can’t do anything in a church or ministry setting without followers. And pastors are called to be leaders. For all of the talk out there about servant leadership, and I am a big fan of servant leadership, pastors are called to be shepherds. And shepherds are leaders. They lead the sheep. They don’t wander with sheep. They lead sheep.

So leaders of churches, ministries or non-profit organizations had better know what it takes to lead effectively. They must find ways to engage people and gauge very quickly their commitment to the organization’s goals and mission.

Sadly, most don’t know how to really lead, and who can blame them? They were never taught that in seminary or divinity school. And when they gather together they create a group that often seeks out the leader of the largest organization and immediately tries to imitate everything that they are doing in hopes that they can create a duplicate success story. Only to find out that works in one situation may not work in another.

What about you? Do you have a compelling reason to give why someone would want to follow you?

Recently the Corragio Group posed this question in a Harvard Business Review on-line survey that was taken by leaders around the world. The responses revealed an interesting mix of perspectives. Here are a few that were received:

  • “Because I’m above average height.”
  • “Because I’m willing to wash the feet of my followers.”
  • “Because I can provide enough confidence for myself.”
  • “Because they just do. I can’t explain it.”
  • “Because my values are clear.”
  • “Because I’ll bring out the best in them.”
  • “Because I’m credible.”

Why Be Led By You - 3Obviously they hit a nerve with that question. What they found as they reviewed the responses was something very important to consider: Is it possible that many leaders honestly don’t know why anyone would want to be led by them?

If getting clear on why anyone would want to be led by you resonates and you think that it’s important for you to be able answer the question, then join me for a dialog on this topic in the coming days. Consider this as my closing quote for this initial article on leadership and followship.

“You’re never too old and you’ll never occupy a position too high to admire someone else for their leadership ability.”

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Photo credit: Foter / CC BY-SA
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Photo credit: pagz99 / Foter / CC BY-NC

9 Replies to “Why Would Anyone Want To Be Led By You? Or Me?”

  1. Good question! I think some people initially follow their leader simply because they have been told the hierarchy in that environment. They simply do as they are told because they think they are supposed to. However, it doesn’t take long before they begin to size up the leader and wonder about the decisions they are making. At that point, unless the following things happen, discord will occur somehow.

    We must:

    1) Build relationships
    2) Cast vision
    3) Admit our need for a team to work together
    4) Seek input from the team to set goals to help live out that vision.
    5) Allow the team to collaborate together and work on implementation of the ideas generated.
    6) Admit that we don’t know everything.
    7) Confidently work in ways that do actually lead your people towards the goals.
    8)Apologize when we mess up.

    Why should people follow me? Because I walk with them, showing them where we are going, and why we are headed that way, while also asking them to help look for best ways to get there together, and then empower them to take part in the process together with me.

    That’s what I believe. But I still question myself and wonder what in the world I’m doing in leadership, because I’m not sure I always do those things well.

    1. Wow! What a great answer and one that is so transparent. I think one of the strongest points that you make is that you show them “why we are headed that way”. I think many leaders forget the “Why”. In business the “Why” is a little more obvious – the bottom line and the shareholder. But in the ministry or non-profit world, the why can be a little more elusive. It should be even more obvious in a ministry setting. But it often is not.

  2. At what point does analyzing why someone should follow you, become a detriment to someone who is a natural leader? In other words, some people are natural leaders and people follow them for reasons neither can fully explain. Can over analyzing that scenario actually result in a regression of that person’s natural leadership?
    That doesn’t remove the responsibility to assess ourselves for improvement opportunities, but sometimes when we overanalyze and consequently over compensate, we can actually lose the natural flow of leading.

    1. With the exception of a certain oil company that I know of, and a few churches that I have attended, I have not seen analysis paralysis as much as you might think. But, your point about a natural born leader, if indeed there is such a thing, is very well taken. I am not sure we could necessarily identify it if we tried.

  3. Janet,

    I agree. I have worked with “leaders” who everything was about them. Their way, they had all the answers, and everyone else was incorrect. That type of “leader” does not lead, they simply march on their own path, usually trying to pull people along with them. A true leader works with their team, listens to their team, and can admit when someone else has the better path. And yes, admit when they are wrong!

  4. Why Would Anyone Want To Be Led By You?
    This is an interesting question that as a leader I’m not sure I can adequately answer. But, here goes.
    People would want to follow me because, frankly “I” am not mentioned in the word “team”.
    Sadly, too often leaders forget this important aspect of team building. “We” are all much better when we work together. When all our time, talent, and treasures are blended together great things will happen. Leadership values are most often effective when the hierarchy of leadership practices the principles they espouse.
    I believe this is demonstrated most accurately in scripture when Jesus commissioned us to “go”. In fact He said that wherever we would “go” He would be with us. Again, sadly…we say “no”, then state so Christian like… oh, “but I am waiting on the Lord”. Many forget that in doing so we forfeit great blessings because God is still, “waiting” for us to take that first step.
    When our boss sends us somewhere are we confident he has our back. When the truth is revealed, are we comfortable with the “go”?
    Also, many become afraid of “going” when all Christ is looking for is the “obedience” in the “go”. Forget the “what”, how about the “go”? Truthfully, “we cannot handle tomorrows portion of grace today, and therefore we cannot handle our next step of grace until we have, taken that next step”.
    How does all this tie into my leadership you ask. Well, those around me, inside or outside the church, cannot be convinced to take that next step to excel at their best as leaders if they can’t see whether or not that I am willing to walk beside them. I have to be willing to “get in the trenches” with them. Teams don’t work if “I” am not willing to “get a little dirty, or “I” don’t want any war wounds, or heaven forbid, I have my reputation to worry about”.
    My “mission” is simple…I cherish the “opportunity to join” Christ on this “mission”. Whatever that may be (leadership or servant), or wherever that may lead. Certainly…failure comes when “I” get in the way. Trust me, it is NOT mission impossible!
    Excuse me please…I have another step to take.

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