We know how important leadership is. Leaders provide role models and establish the level of trust. We have rightly focused on leader development. But leadership is not a person; it’s a relationship between people. If we only focus on the leader, we are in danger of under-estimating the importance of being a good follower.
We all have plenty of first-hand experience of being a follower since we were born and followed our parents. Even top leaders are followers in other areas of their lives. Our role as proactive and responsible followers may be even more life-changing and meaningful than any leadership role we play. By failing to focus on being a good follower we may be missing real opportunities to shape our future and the world. Perhaps we need to invest as much in becoming good followers as we do in developing our leadership?
Peter is a wonderful example of a great, if flawed, follower. I love the story of the disciples in a boat at four o’clock in the morning. They were being battered by storms and wind. It was dark and they were very frightened. And Jesus comes out of the darkness walking on the water. While all the others were wondering about this “ghost,” Peter overcame his fear and “suddenly bold,” said to Jesus, “Ask me to come to You.” He knew Jesus to be the source of power. Peter waited until Jesus said “Come.” He got out of the boat and walked on water – not perfectly, but he did what no one else has done. He was a good follower – and by being a good follower he eventually became one of the most steady, rock-solid leaders in the history of the Church.