Follower First

Leadership matters. Leaders are a strategic leverage point for wider influence, change and transformation. This is the reason ‘leadership’ is in Arrow’s name. It’s why we have specialized for over twenty years in developing, mentoring, resourcing, encouraging and praying for Christian leaders.

One major challenge, however, is that there are now literally hundreds of interpretations of leadership. Too often the focus drifts toward position, power, personality, or charisma. Add to the list giftedness, competency, celebrity or the building of empires. Sometimes leadership is promoted as an individual enterprise with leaders portrayed as knights in shining armor who single-handedly slay any problem.

Despite all the possible definitions, Christian leadership starts with radical discipleship. This kind of leadership flows from the inside-out and is based on Jesus’ call that, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34)

This means that Christian leaders need to first be followers. This ‘follower-ship’ is demonstrated in Philippians 2:6-11 by four key characteristics in the life of Christ. I’ve paired each characteristic below with a self-reflection question for leaders:

  1. Surrender and Submission – Jesus ‘…humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.’ (v.8) Is humble obedience the hallmark of your leadership?
  2. Sacrifice and Suffering – By becoming obedient to death (v.8) and giving his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), Jesus modeled the reality of sacrifice and suffering. Are you willing to endure the costs of discipleship and leadership?
  3. Servanthood – Despite ‘…being in very nature God…,’ Jesus ‘…made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness.’ (v.7) Do you seek to be served or to serve? Could your followers imagine you ‘washing their feet’?
  4. Seek God’s Splendor – Christ’s foremost desire was to glorify the Father. Even as he faced his own death, his prayer was “Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:28) The result was that ‘God exalted him to the highest place…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (v.9-11). Is God’s splendor – His glory, praise and fame – your primary focus?

These four characteristics are a wonderful illustration of Jesus’ unique leadership style. They are also a powerful reminder that Christian leaders are called to be followers first. May ‘being led more by Jesus’ be the distinctive foundation and unwavering brand of our leadership.