Leaders are followers…

This is some thinking I had on leadership recently…

A key to great leaders is that they are discerning followers. Why is that?

Everyone follows something/someone.

The claim, “I don’t follow anything” is groundless. From the moment of birth our lives are impacted by external stimuli bombarding our senses. Some of these things we have no choice over initially (the environment we start out life in, our parents/guardians, where we live etc.) but as we grow the amount of choice we have with the influences in our lives increases exponentially. With these increased choices comes the opportunity for us to choose what we follow.
This is where the difference between the average person and great leaders has a stark contrast. Great leaders are careful in choosing (where they have control over) what they will follow, the average person is more indiscriminate.

The evidence isn’t discovered until after the fact…

Great leaders aren’t always observed until sufficient time has passed that filters the great things they have been involved in. In hindsight, studying a great leader will reveal that their discernment in what they followed had bearing on what they accomplished. Whether it was a school of thought, influential individuals, certain habits or practices – these followings had a definite role in the outcome of the leader and thus contributed to what made them “great”.


While not all of us will be great leaders, we can still become better leaders by being more discerning in what we follow. What does this mean practically?

1. Be aware of what you follow.
Start with the recognition that we all follow something and then start to consciously think about what it is that you follow in your life? What people have played/are playing a significant role in your life? What kinds of things do you keep up on? What influences affect your decisions? What do you like to check with before going ahead with something? These questions and more will help you become aware of what it is you follow.

2. Determine what you are leading.
This is an exercise that is far too complex to reiterate in a single paragraph or two. However, to outline, before you can choose what you follow you have to know what you are leading (or want to lead). If you can’t figure this out then you aren’t really leading anything.

3. Choose what to follow according to your strengths.
Time is a precious commodity. Don’t follow things or people that have no relevance to what you are good (or better) at. The way you become a great leader in a certain area is by following people who are great leaders in that area. Become students of them. Read what they write, listen to what they say, observe what they do. The purpose of doing so is not so that you become a clone but so that you can grow in your ability. If you choose to follow things that you are weak in you’ll be wasting time.

[Disclaimer: This does not necessarily mean that you don’t follow what you don’t like…]

4. Reevaluate regularly.
At some point, you are going to have to reconsider the people and things you follow. The world changes and so do you. If you don’t re-evaluate what it is you follow on a regular basis then you run the risk of becoming stagnant in your growth as a leader.

5. Don’t expect greatness over night…in fact don’t expect it at all.
The thing about great leaders is that greatness isn’t what they aim for. They aim for greatness at what they do. If you aim to be a great leader for the simple reason that you want to be great – you’re not going to get there – especially if that’s something you think will happen quickly! Great leaders are consistent at their discernment in following great people and great things and eventually they become recognized as great leaders in their own right. Often, that “great leader” label comes years after the person has died because history recognizes their great accomplishments.

So instead of aiming to be a great leader, aim at being a great follower and work on doing great things.

Help Wanted: Apostles

Apostles and The Emerging Apostolic Movement

Rating: 4 out of 5






Author: David Cannistraci

Year: 1998

Category: Apostles, Leadership

Publisher: Regal Books

ISBN: 0830723382

David has written a book that is an attempt to elucidate and give shape to an understanding of the biblical office of apostle and make an argument for the validity of restoring this office today. I think he has done a good job pointing out the important need for apostles and their ministry as well as clearly outlining the characteristics, work, and authority of the apostles as written about in the New Testament. There wasn’t too much in this book I disagreed with and I would recommend it as a read for any leader in the church.

As I was reading it however I began thinking of my own fellowship (PAOC) and how to some degree while it may not be directly recognized as such (with the term “apostles”) there are men functioning in that role already. We have sectional presbyters (who “oversee” groupings of churches in a district) and regional directors (who oversee groupings of sections in a district) and district superintendents (who oversee a district) and then the General Superintendent (who oversees the districts). I think it might benefit our fellowship more to understand (and perhaps recognize) the role these leaders have as “apostles”.

I also realized as I read this book how little is actually taught in our churches about the office of apostle and yet how important it is to teach. One of the reasons why I picked up this book in the first place was because an experience I had within my own church with a person who was convinced God was calling them to be an apostle. I wasn’t convinced however that this individual correctly understood the purpose of that office. Another thing that stood out was the fact that the individual had never really been in any place of leadership in the church and as such had never been proven. I doubted this person’s motive for seeking that mantle even though he claimed it was to restore the church to it’s “God-given calling”. The thing is, I had no doubt this person really did love God – but unfortunately, their pursuit of this office was misguided. How I wish I had the resource of this book as a companion to my understanding of what the Bible said when counseling this individual – it would have been a good resource to pass on to him as well.

Anyway, in this book, David does a good job of providing some sound counsel for understanding the ministry of apostles and it will be a welcome reference on my bookshelf!

Tags: apostolic movement, apostle, leader, church, ministry, five-fold ministry, David Cannistraci,