If you own a small business, you have a leadership role. If you head a church, a bible study, or a Boy Scout troop, you have a leadership role. If you are a dad, a mom, or even a big sister or big brother you have a leadership role.
Sometimes we are called to leadership roles and sometimes we choose them. Other times circumstance may just create happenstance and you find yourself in a leadership role.
Leaders Have a Responsibility to the People They Lead
As a leader we have responsibilities. I believe that in most cases we have a responsibility “for” and “to” the people we lead. Sometimes people choose to follow us, other times by authority, they would have to choose to not follow you.
An example of the latter, for clarity, is when you have worked someplace for ten years and your boss resigns. They hire a replacement who has authority and leadership over your position. In this case, you would have to resign to not be required to follow them. You would have to make that choice.
I know I have written about this topic before and I guess it is a hot button for me. I see people not taking a proactive position in developing leadership skills or not feeling responsible for providing strong leadership.
Throughout the bible, it talks about leadership.
We have stories about shepherds and kings…judges and elders.
We have many who did not feel equipped for the leadership that God called them to and he still commanded them to step up and lean on Him.
Others volunteered knowing that God was behind them.
Poor Leadership can have a Crippling Impact on Followers
Society speaks often about the qualities of a strong leader and I have written about that myself. I want to talk about the impact of poor leadership on followers.
- Followers are directionless without strong leadership and will feel like failures even when they worked so hard to be good followers.
- Poor leadership can cause a follower to feel unimportant and uncared for.
- Inconsistent leadership has the power to impact a follower’s long-term ability to trust.
- Inattentive leadership feels like a betrayal.
- Poor leadership results in feelings of disrespect and anger and for loyal followers causes internal conflict and guilt.
Consistent poor leadership causes long-term damage that for some people causes them emotional and spiritual scarring.
Poor Leadership: A Personal Case Study
I have many personal examples of following poor leaders and strong leaders. One experience in being a follower of a poor leader left me tainted.
I worked for a person who:
- couldn’t articulate the direction and goals of our department
- changed his mind so swiftly that his staff and our internal customers didn’t know if they could rely on his decisions or directions
- rarely provided direct feedback or communicated his position; you didn’t know if he agreed or didn’t agree
- and didn’t clearly define responsibilities or objectives and, therefore, didn’t hold people accountable or give credit when credit was due
He was a nice guy. Although erratic in his moods at times. But, he smiled and chatted with everyone. He seemed bright enough.
He just didn’t take seriously his responsibility as the leader of our department. Since he was the CFO it was the entire administrative arm of the company. As the Corporate Controller, I had responsibility for a large subset of his area of responsibility.
I was a bit of a zealous overachiever with a high need to help and serve our internal customers. I wanted them to feel like we were taking care of all of the back end, they just needed to go create, manufacture, or sell.
It was embarrassing to go and tell another department head that we could hit a timeline that I knew was impossible and had begged us not to commit to. Only to miss that deadline and listen to my boss apologize for our under-performance.
It was frustrating when I put in long hours and worked hard to achieve a deadline and then my work sat unlooked at for weeks.
I didn’t know what to say to my staff when I communicated their suggestions and recommendations but received no feedback.
When my leader, my boss, and my manager told me not to distribute information to senior management, or to make a journal entry that was not proper accounting, I was devastated, conflicted and felt betrayed.
A Lasting Impact: Best Case and Worst Case
This had a lasting impact on me. For me, it taught me what not to do as a leader. I think it also taught me to be overly independent and to be a bit of a rebel; a resistant follower. And, for a while, a bit of a control freak.
Everyone is wired differently. I know many others whom it taught to:
- never take personal responsibility for anything.
- to always cover their rear ends.
- to tell people all of the time “That’s not my job” or “ I will only do it if my boss tells me to”.
- and to never, ever take chances, or step out of their comfort zones.
Still others took the fall for a poor leader and were so hurt by the experience that they let it build up walls around their hearts, and impacted their personal relationships as well as their work.
See Your Leadership Through Your Follower’s Eyes
There is a definite follow-up blog post from this for followers. However, this post is to help all of you leaders out there, which is most of us in some way or another, see your leadership from your follower’s perspective.
We are called by Jesus to love others as we love ourselves. I think this should convict us that we need to at least try our hardest to constantly strengthen and build our leadership skills and to consistently apply them in our leadership roles. We want that from our leaders, right?
I am not talking about the leadership message. There will be messages that followers like and many they don’t like. Again, that is a completely different issue. Good leaders can get enthusiastic participation in very undesirable acts i.e. battles. It is the lifelong pursuit of building up the skills and characteristics of strong leadership that I am referring to.
Much Has Been Said About Leadership
There are tons of books and conferences about leadership. John Maxwell has written many from a biblical perspective. He has even published a bible (affiliate link) that highlights leadership. I am reading a new book called Leadership by the Book (affiliate link) by Ken Blanchard and Bill Hybels.
The responsibility is there. The help is available. The impact you can make for God is waiting!