There are countless articles written to inform us on how to become a better and more efficient leader. Nothing wrong with this since becoming an honored and effective leader is the goal of many a Christian. But, there are no good leaders that are not good followers, first. It takes both effective leaders and followers for any group or organization to accomplish their intended goals. So this article is written, hopefully, to shed some light on what it means to be a good follower. I will begin this article discussing Elisha. You know him, right? He was the follower of Elijah, one of the most endearing prophets of the OT. Elijah gave us glimpses of his ‘natural man’ as well as the more spiritual part of him that allowed the Holy Spirit to have His way in Elijah’s life. Elijah was a notable man of God among the prophets of his time.
First off we should know that God will choose whom we should follow and to whom we are to pay or render our services. Before we are ever called to become leaders, we are called to become followers. If we become leaders without first understanding the role and importance of being a good follower, we will have missed the necessary lesson we need to be a successful and effective leader. Elisha fulfilled the calling on his life because he understood the need to recognize and adhere to the one (Elijah) to whom God called him to follow.
One of the first requirements in becoming a good follower is to know whom to follow and to relinquish the life you have always known, to follow the person God has brought into your life. This may or may not require you to separate from family members, jobs, homes, churches, etc. (I am not speaking here, necessarily, about a husband and wife with children.) God will usually separate us from those people and those things that have an overly emotional or convoluted ‘hold’ on us, in the natural realm. God wants to use the natural things of this world, to enhance our spirituality, not cripple our growth in the spirit. A dysfunctional or abnormal relationship with anyone or anything in the natural realm, will cripple our spiritual walk. A right relationship in the natural realm, will enhance and bring productivity to our spirituality. (Mark 10)
In 2 Kings 2:1-15 Elisha has been with Elijah for a while now but is now learning to listen to God for himself (not sure of the exact time the two spent in each other’s company.. Have read 20 years?, But there was quite a distance to travel so am guessing it to be a while). Elijah tries to persuade Elisha to stay put, but Elisha has heard from God and insists on accompanying him as Elijah travels towards his ‘rapture’. Elijah himself is not convinced that it is God’s plan to bring Elisha to this event, but the double anointing will become the evidence that Elisha was following in obedience, the instructions of God. (What can we glean from this? That even those we look up to as our mentors, are not perfect and can miss God’s instruction, as Elijah has concerning Elisha accompanying him.) We must know to whom we are called to follow and where we are going, and there must be a clear vision for both leader and follower.
A good follower lovingly supports their leader. If the leader is wrong, a good follower will confront the leader and not have a ‘gossip’ session concerning mistakes made or faults evident. A good follower does not complain nor find fault with others. A good follower does his/her best to support the vision of the leader in a positive and productive manner. A good follower will sometimes take the initiative in their contribution towards the vision. A good follower is always looking for ways to make themselves more valuable. The leader will know that they can count on the word of their followers, if they are worth their weight. A good follower follows through with a promise and can be an effective communicator. Learning to follow in a Godly manner will require us to be able to accept direction (zig then zag), instruction, and remain teachable as well as being able to handle constructive criticism. We can learn just as much about becoming an effective leader during the times we are following, than at any time in our leadership roles if we are called to become leaders.
No leader can achieve success without committed and faithful followers. A good leader will make plain their goals and visions so that their followers are not in question about what is expected of them. When the goals and visions of the leader and his/her followers is one and the same, success is inevitable. Good followers will maintain the mentality of a winner or victor and they get pleasure from seeing their leader(s) succeed. Good followers are careful with their information, because accurate and honest information is imperative when making decisions concerning the goal or vision. A good follower (just as a good leader) will retain a can do mentality and positive attitude when working towards the goals and visions.
If you are a leader, seek out the above mentioned characteristics when choosing your followers. If you are a follower and possess these characteristics, then know that ‘a good follower will someday make a great leader.’ And always, become as God has called you to become whether follower or leader.