Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

Aug 4, 2016, Written by Jim Miley


I’m talking about people here. Dealing with people, leading people, following people…

It is far more difficult to know how to act when we don’t understand the situations at the root cause level. If we do not understand the behavioral drivers of another person, choosing a response becomes guess work. Our uncertainty over people’s motives can lead to anxiety, which tends to spread from one situation to the next.

Further, we don’t always recognize our own motivations. A question not often asked is, “Why do I feel this way?

I recall from earlier in my career being responsible for transitioning to a new CRM system across my sales team. The transition required that I encourage and further ensure that the sales staff was fully utilizing the new program. Data entry, updates, disposition of proposals, etc.  The short story is my heart just wasn’t in it. I did not really care to drive the change in behaviors and knew that senior leadership would not really be able to recognize my lack of compliance, at least not easily.

The issue I’m pointing to is not whether our CRM system was on schedule for implementation. Why did I not want to implement to the best of my ability? That is the question.

I believed that our sales production was not going to benefit from the CRM transition. My sales staff was experienced and top tier in performance. I didn’t need to prioritize CRM over other more worthwhile endeavors. Is that really why I did not press the implementation timeline? I don’t believe so.

I led a really strong team and was proud of how we performed.

Dissect this sentiment, “I led a really strong team and was proud of how we performed,” and you may see why I slow-rolled CRM compliance.

  1. I” was the “leader.”
  2. I was “proud.”
  3. We “performed.”

So, what? So, there was a spiritual battle going on in my heart that I just missed.

Who is the leader?

Being the leader can confuse our sensibilities if our global perspective is not clear.  Who is the Leader?  I had a strong faith in God and confessed with regularity that He was the Leader. Yet, somehow I elevated my business leadership beyond what I knew to be true in my own Faith.

Who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of earth as emptiness. – Isaiah 40:23, ESV


I was allowing myself to take credit for the performance of the team.  I remain pleased to this day with how we performed, but I recognize that pride is a dangerous thing to treasure.  I can be excited and extremely pleased, but when pride grows, bad things often follow.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. – Proverbs 11:2, ESV

How we performed?

It is good and necessary to achieve results. But it is also necessary to include performance measures not beyond those recognized by the world around us. Getting the trophy is nice while honoring God’s Spirit is eternal.  I was happy with the numbers, but I took my eye off the ball in this situation with honoring what I believed.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? – Matthew 16:26, ESV

Putting the worldly numbers first and taking credit for achieving them increased my pride to the point that I was the Leader. I did not need to comply with the CRM implementation timeline. I was the the Leader.

My personal account above happens all the time. You may find yourself as the obstinate leader needing to follow another, the authoritative leader with a squatter in tow or as a follower whose leader is struggling to lead.

Let prayer and God’s direction be your guide.

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. – Proverbs 15:22, ESV

Being a Leader does not mean that we are always out front and calling all the shots.

Sometimes a good leader knows to follow. Follow God. Follow other leaders. Follow healthy convictions.

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

There were no apparent consequences from my story on a CRM system. But I recognized that I was not leading, I was not following and I was in the way.

The whole project turned out okay in the end, but I learned something about myself and what was really in my heart that I had not expected to find. My self-image as a spiritually mature, pragmatic, rational business leader was shaken. I was subject to the same spiritual battles and brokenness as all those other people! I’ve been confessing my brokenness all of my born again adult life and here I am full of pride, refusing to submit to authority, clinging to my own power… why?

For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. – Romans 8:7, ESV

Consider human relationships that you encounter in your work life, home life, social life or whatever other life you might have. Seek to recognize your spiritual drivers for what they really are and pay attention.

Sometimes we will need to lead out front. Sometimes we may need to lead by submitting to a higher authority. Squatting or foot-dragging may raise a flag that there are other spiritual battles taking place that we need to resolve.

Pray about these things. You may be surprised what The Lord reveals to you and find that you are a better leader for it.

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work…Admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all… – 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14, ESV

When God will have you out front and calling the shots, do it well.

If He puts you in a place to follow other leaders, do it well.

If you can not lead or follow, search your heart and pray for His guidance.

Do all things to His glory, Amen.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men… – Colossians 3:23, ESV

Reader Interactions


  1. Catherine Thompson says

    Dear Mr Miley thank you for this article. I know it’s timeliness is for
    M e.
    I hesitated to ask your question but you made yourself vulnerable and I have seen my ” I don’t need this ” Attitüde as pride . I am going to have a heart to heart talk now with the Father. Thank you sooooo much once again.

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Jim Miley

As a Business Coach, Jim brings a broad background of operational and sales management skills and expertise to help small business owners grow their business and reach their highest potential. He has 30 years of field-proven professional experience.

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