Follow the Leader

by Joanie Butman

I read with interest an announcement for the upcoming Global Leadership Summit, August 10-11, hosted by the Willow Creek Association, an international ministry. Due to popular demand, the conference is being simulcast at over 600 churches, organizations, and convention centers across the country. The website boasts an impressive and diverse line-up of leaders from all areas of business – including God’s. While intriguing, not being in a leadership position, I didn’t dwell on it long.

I mentioned it to a friend and she challenged my belief that it didn’t apply to me. She suggested that we’re all leaders in some capacity. Her premise prompted me to rethink my definition of ‘leader.’ Webster defines the word as a person who has commanding authority or influence, such as a tour guide or conductor. Seriously? You’d think the example would be a military officer, the president, a business icon such as Steve Jobs, or perhaps even the Pope. At least that’s what comes to my mind when I hear the word leader. Yet, even preschoolers understand and value the concept of leader. According to my little buddies, it’s a great honor to be chosen ‘line leader.’ Ha! The last time I was line leader was at a recent wedding – it wasn’t pretty.

A leader is someone to whom others look to for direction. Unless it’s the Chicken Dance, I doubt anyone is looking to me for direction. However, my friend’s point, that we all have a sphere of influence, shifted my perspective towards the spiritual aspect of leadership. We have no idea how the manner in which we live impacts someone else – friend or foe. Nor do we need to. Christ only asks that we live out His teaching. If our conduct reflects our values and beliefs, we are leading by example. That’s a leadership role Christ assigns to every believer.

Think of Moses. On the surface, who would consider him a great leader? He was lost in the desert for 40 years!! Talk about directionally challenged. And what about the apostles? Did they consider themselves great leaders? I doubt it. Like many of us, they could barely get out of their own way at times. They were ordinary men living ordinary lives until they met Jesus. What they had in common was their recognition of Christ as the One they wanted to follow at all cost. I believe most good leaders begin as good followers and learners.  An integral aspect of their success is finding good leaders to study and emulate as they grow into their own leadership style and role. Could there be a better example than Christ? Rick Warren suggests that the moment you stop learning, you stop leading. Spiritually speaking, I’d say the moment you stop learning and growing is the moment you stop truly living.

In this age of social media, the currency of choice is the number of likes or followers one can accrue. In light of this reality, I had to agree with my friend that leadership is not confined to those in charge of soldiers, countries, corporations or churches. We all have a commission to lead by example. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Sadly, many people believe their number of likes or followers define their worth and relevance. I couldn’t disagree more. God is not concerned with the amount of your followers but where and how you are leading them. He’s the only ‘like’ we need to be concerned with. We don’t have to be military strategists, political titans, business magnates or spiritual giants to attend a Leadership Summit. We’re all given a calling. It may simply be leading your own family. That in itself is no small feat. Better communication skills would have and still can improve my leadership in that arena.

Even though the timing couldn’t be worse, I’m going to take a closer look at that Summit. Who knows? Choosing to make time might be what God is asking so that He can broaden my sphere of influence beyond the dance floor. Having just danced my way through another wedding last night, I can attest that my ‘leadership’ skills need improvement. After all, life is just one long Chicken Dance. Maybe I’ll pick up some new steps I could pass along. Stay tuned.