The Condition to Complete the Gospel Harmonization of Leadership and Followership


In any group whether it is a school or a company or the military base or a sports team or a public office, there is a word that is often mentioned when something good or something bad happens. It is leadership. “They failed because of lack of leadership,” “They overcame the obstacle with an outstanding leadership.”

The books about leadership always take the top sales in the bookstores. For the leadership education programs, people from different kinds of fields including CEOs and even young students gather together. Leadership is the essential and necessary ability for leaders who guide groups whether big or small.

Then is it possible to lead a group only by good leadership?

Good Leadership & Bad Leadership

When a king gave an order, his servants and people bowed down and served the king. When a master gave an order, his servants obeyed him no matter what. In the feudal system where there was a distinct disparity between the ruling and the ruled, leadership was not that necessary. If people did not follow the commands of a man of authority, he could force them to obey him and could punish them by law.

It is different in the modern society. Now, most people work by their own will, not by force or oppression, and they have freedom not to do anything out of their belief. That is why leaders began to be required to have ability to guide members with different ways of thinking and ideas to complete the task. This ability is called leadership.

The definition of leadership in the dictionary is the ability to lead a group of people or an organization. Outstanding leadership encourages the members to complete the goal or task, and successful leaders are often given wealth and fame.

However, not everybody has good leadership. Some people have wrong leadership that causes a bad influence on the members and brings the whole group into a slump. A typical example is misunderstanding the leadership as an “ability to rule over the members with a strong personality and make the members accept their insistence by any means.” People with this kind of leadership think that leaders are only to make decisions and give orders, and do not take account of other’s view. They do not only behave self-righteously but control and micromanage the members. It causes a problem when a leader tries to package self-righteousness and obstinacy under the pretext of leadership.

According to a survey, 77% of the workers answered that they had considered quitting the job because of conflicts with their bosses. Their answers such as “I don’t want to go to work because of my stubborn boss” or “I don’t like my job because my boss doesn’t understand me” show how leadership can influence the members.

Some may ask, “No matter what kind of leadership the leader has, isn’t the outcome all that matters?” However, no matter how good the result is, if the members have been hurt and lost the will to work, it is only glory with scars. We are living in the age when success is not guaranteed even though all the members are united; so if the members do not become one, their future is obvious.

Followership Is as Important as Leadership

Leadership is definitely important, but we cannot work only with leadership. Most groups have much more followers than leaders.

Just as a leader needs leadership, a follower needs a certain mindset as a follower—followership. Follower which means one who follows derives from an ancient German word, follazionhan, which means “to help, support, and contribute.” Therefore, followership can be interpreted as the “ability to help the leader and to contribute to the entrusted task.” In other words, it indicates the “spirit of one who follows” or “power to follow willingly.”

Just as leadership has a great influence on the success of a group, followership is also a key factor for success. Dr. Robert E. Kelley who is a professor of leadership says that leaders contribute 20% towards the success of an organization; remaining 80% is done by followers. Just as he claims, the followers play a very important role. Even if a leader tries to lead followers with great leadership, if the followers refuse to follow the leader or raise objections every time, then it is hard to accomplish the goal. And if all those many followers try to judge and make a decision like a leader, things won’t go properly. Then that organization will be divided in the end.

As a matter of fact, these instances are not few because expressing one’s thoughts without constraint is regarded as a virtue these days. Many of the followers try to insist on their opinions or try to decide everything on their own. This often causes a conflict between the leader and the followers or among the followers. Many people try to judge or make a decision about an important matter without discussing it with their leaders at all, or they go over the limit, meddling in people’s affairs. On the contrary, complains are heard considerably that people who would take responsibility on the chin are very few.

Working self-directedly deserves a welcome, but what will happen if everybody insists on his own opinion? Too many cooks spoil the broth. Not forgetting that a community is not just for one person “alone,” but for many people “together,” followers should act accordingly, understanding his stance and position clearly. Even if things go different, followers need to be able to broaden their gaze and willingly follow the leader rather than oppose.

A Good Follower Becomes a Good Leader

Leaders and followers are complementary and cannot be separated though their roles are different from each other. No matter how great a leader is, he cannot do everything on his own. For a leader to lead a group successfully, the support and contribution of the followers are absolutely needed. What a leader needs in order to bring out the support of the followers is humility and listening. If a leader thinks that he can order and instruct whatever he wants just because he is a leader, it is truly an outdated view. One of the major reasons many leaders who experience discord with the followers is that their relationship with the followers became broken as they gave a unilateral order or instruction, neglecting the followers’ opinions.

No one would like a leader who gives a unilateral instruction in a high-handed way. When the leader brings himself down to the level of the followers, communicates with them, and works together in harmony, the result can be good; the leader and the followers can accomplish the true success where everybody can feel the sense of achievement. Among many leadership theories, there are servant leadership, companionable leadership, and communication leadership, which embrace the members with a caring attitude and open mind. These leaderships draw people’s attention these days, and have great implication for leaders who are guiding small and big organizations.

Actually, if a leader changes the way of speaking even a little bit, his relationship with the followers can be improved. Instead of saying, “Hurry up and finish this,” it’s better to say, “Could you finish this as soon as possible, please?” and instead of “You will see what happens if you make a mistake,” it’s better to say, “This project is very important, so please pay an extra attention.” When the leader explains the purpose and background of the work in detail instead of just giving an order, the followers can also work more voluntarily and attentively, not reluctantly or absentmindedly.

Humility and listening attitudes are important for followers, too. If they follow, trusting in the leader’s experiences, knowledge, and decisions, the leader can also entrust them with work without any worries, and the followers can also work with positive mindset. Even if the leader has some weak points, the followers should not try to expose or blame them, but acknowledge them as they are and try to make up for them; then they will form a stronger mutual trust and have less discord.

With reference to the above matter, the followers should not take a hostile attitude or grumble. Some people work to humiliate their leader or co-workers. It is not hard to see people who habitually raise objections to the opinions of their leader or co-workers or oppose without suggesting any alternative. It might be their own way of trying to do a better job, but their attitude can hurt each other’s feelings, and there is a high possibility that the whole group can fall into a slump. Even if the leader suggests a good plan, if the followers close their minds and ears, thinking, ‘I wish he stopped nagging me. I can do it on my own,’ then they usually have problems even before starting the work.

What is important here is the mindset to think how, not why. Instead of having a negative viewpoint─‘Why me? Why does he have to ask me to do this?’ ‘Why do I have to do this way?’ we should work with positive attitude─‘How can I handle this more effectively?’ ‘How can I get this done more appropriately?’ Then, you will get a positive result.

Just as an ancient philosopher once said, “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader,” it is hard for those who are not qualified as followers to become good leaders. Leaders with outstanding leadership were not leaders from the beginning. Most people begin from a low position and become leaders in recognition of their capability at the end. Great followership serves as a foundation for an excellent leadership, and a faithful follower grows to be a great leader who understands the followers and leads his organization wisely. Followership and leadership are not apart from each other, but they are like the two sides of a coin.

Jesus Christ, the Role Model of Leadership and Followership

Jesus Christ came to this earth to lead mankind to heaven. He came as a leader who led mankind to salvation and as a follower who accomplished God’s word at the same time.

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Lk 5:32

“who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Gal 1:4–5

Jesus willingly took up the unendurable pain to accomplish the plan of salvation. He knew how severe the pain was going to be; that’s why He prayed before He was crucified, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me.” However, He fully carried out His duty as a follower and said, “Yet not as I will, but as you will,” standing firmly as the leader who accomplished the salvation of mankind.

Elohists who believe in God Elohim and preach the gospel of the new covenant are followers of God Elohim, and also the gospel leaders who teach and guide many souls. The first required virtue from those Elohists is obedience which Jesus set an example of.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, . . . he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that . . . every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Php 2:5–11

The forefathers of faith whose names shine in the records of the Bible were also great followers and leaders. When Abraham received God’s order to sacrifice his only son Isaac, he didn’t question God, but obeyed Him and later obtained a glorious title, the “source of blessing,” and the “forefather of faith.” The apostles like Paul and Peter, who lived as God’s followers thoroughly, following Christ’s examples, received a blessing of leading 3,000 and 5,000 people a day to salvation as the gospel leaders.

The saints who are saved in this age are “those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Rev 14:1–4). The spiritual followership—obeying God’s teachings absolutely, is manifested as great leadership that leads many souls to salvation. Sometimes, a teaching of God can be different from our thoughts. However, if we firmly believe that it is God’s will to give us a blessing in the end (Dt 8:16) and follow it with all our strength, we will stand firm as the leaders who fulfill the world mission in one mind with God.