Understanding Followership

Even though about 80% of a groups success is the direct result of follower contributions, information available on followership is relatively quite small as compared to that available on leadership. When followership is discussed, it’s often in terms of how leaders can better cultivate good followership in their teams.

The idea of followership sometimes seems like just another approach to leadership. However, there are also those of us who, although we understand that everyone leads and is an example in some way to someone, we don’t posit ourselves as leaders in the way that most of the books, trainings, research, podcasts, etc. on leadership describe. In other words, we don’t consider ourselves leaders in the formal sense and may find greater benefit from the pursuit of godly followership.

Especially for Christians, it’s essential that we understand how to become better followers. This is regardless of our leadership status, too, since every good leader is also a good follower.

Followership is also biblical. Not only does the Bible come at it from the direction of a follower’s value to a leader but also from the perspective of why following is an essential element in the progressing faith of a Christian.

“The mark of a good leader is loyal followers; leadership is nothing without a following.” (Proverbs 14:28, MSG)

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

In a culture that seems to prize leadership as the pinnacle of success and influence, considering the powerful impact of followership – specifically, our individual impact as followers – as equally valuable is an important step toward a more complete approach to making progress toward perfection.

Godly Followership

Godly followership involves both respect for leadership and an awareness of one’s impact as a follower. If you are a Christian, understanding your role as a follower begins with and should remain grounded on what the Bible says about both leadership and followership.

As a starting point, consider these points and their connected verses:

  1. Respect a leader because of their position of authority, knowledge, etc., and follow that leader if it is legal, moral, ethical, and biblical to do so. (Romans 13:1-7; Hebrews 13:17)
  2. Personal preference isn’t always a reason to not follow someone. (Romans 14:1-23)
  3. Being a diligent follower is crucial. In other words, avoid blind following. (Acts 17:11-12)
  4. Even bad leaders need followed sometimes. (Matthew 23:1-4)
  5. Everyone should always be a follower. (1 Peter 2:21)
  6. Following is often the best leadership. (1 Corinthians 1:11)
  7. God must be the foundation of followership. (Deuteronomy 13:4)

These points stem from a personal assessment of my life of followership to help me better understand where and how I can become a more godly follower. They are certainly not a comprehensive analysis of followership, but this act of reflection has helped me understand my place in the milieu of the leadership movement and given me a clearer picture how to best move forward in this unexpected journey.