Friday, September 09, 2011

The difference between leading a follower and leading a leader

Yesterday I began to write about the difference between leading leaders and leading followers.  I said I'd rather lead a leader any day than lead a follower.  Before you finish reading this post you might want to lay a foundation for today's post by going back and reading yesterday's post if you haven't already.

On our Celebration Church leadership team we have everybody from an engineer to a director of Human Resources, to a few medical researchers, to several teachers serving with us.  In fact, I lead our worship team at the church and both the local public high school and the middle school choral directors are on the team!  We have 32 people currently on our top leadership team at Celebration and most every one of them are leaders outside the church, many of them at the highest levels of their company.  I am not only very comfortable with this -- I prefer it.  I don't just want to be surrounded by a bunch of followers because quite truthfully, followers don't have what it takes to get you to the next level.  It takes LEADERSHIP to get to the next level and on any successful team that takes more than just the point person.

Is it more challenging to lead people who are strong leaders in their own right?  At times, absolutely.  The stronger those I lead are, the more it requires me to go to new levels in improving my leadership skills.  Although I'm a very strong leader, being around our leaders stretches  and challenges me on a constant basis.

Today I'm going to share a few sharp differences I've noticed in leading others who are leaders vs. those who are followers.   

Here are a few things to know about true leaders... (notice I said true leaders...it's not just people with "titles" I refer to but people who are bona fide leaders.)


Leaders who contribute value to a team long term are those whose expertise is valued.  Andy Stanley says:  "Leaders who refuse to listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing significant to say."  

Leaders have not checked their brains at the door when they became Christians or joined a leadership team. They know how to think for themselves and know how to articulate themselves.  Followers on the other hand may never question what they are told.  Followers are often content to be blindly led and have no idea what's going on. 


Leaders have a life.  If somebody is a leader they have something going besides you.  It's always good to keep this in mind and avoids a lot of frustration on both he part of the leader and the person who happens to be the team leader.

Leaders don't just want to know what to do - they want to know WHY.  Something has to make sense for them to buy into it.

Leaders aren't simply interested in filling a slot.  They have tons of opportunities in life to do that.  They need to make a difference in something meaningful.  If you have them bogged down in counting paper clips or something equally as menial as their main function they probably won't last long.  And in my experience, even if their body is still there for whatever reason, their minds and hearts have checked out long ago.

Leaders always have thoughts about how something could be done better and will often want to share that.  Improving things is what they do.  They are actively involved in other areas of their lives in sharpening processes, analyzing problems and creating solutions.  It's only natural that they would want to be a part of that in anything they do. When they can't, they usually check out - even if they are still on your team physically. 

Leaders will devote energy to a task if fully given the opportunity to express themselves and collectively will bring greater results than anything you could possibly do alone.  A group of capable leaders has amazing soaring power.

Leaders will always use their influence to get something done if they see the value in it.


Leaders have invaluable insight and talent to share and only have so much bandwidth in their lives to do so.  This means they have to make hard decisions about where to invest their time or even their emotional energy.

Leaders are very supportive of things they have ownership in.

Leaders think strategically and need more than emotional appeals to get them on board. 

Leaders don't wait for permission to follow a dream.  They criticize by creating and do it whether anybody gives permission or not.

Leaders are going to flourish somewhere -- it might be with you, it might not be -- but they are going to find a way to be a good steward and bring full expression to the gifts God has given them.

Leaders function best on a team when they are led by other secure leaders.  Someone may lead strongly, yet not securely.  I've learned there's a huge difference between strong and secure.


Tomorrow I'll share what I've learned I need to do to lead leaders better.

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