Developing Followers

Developing Followers - 1In leadership we are seeking to help the people we are leading discover their purpose and potential. Each leader also may have certain goals, objectives and processes that they are supposed to meet and follow-through on, however the ultimate objective of leadership is the development of our followers.

As leaders we need to engage, equip and empower. As leaders, our followers need to know that we care, that we are available to them, that what we offer is to help them and open new doors for them. In an overly-simplistic reductionism I would assert that leadership is about the people and management is about the work. In other words our leadership ought to be for the development of followers (their lives, abilities, skill-set and productivity) but our management ought to focused on company/organization objectives, benchmarks, action-steps and of course the bottom-line.

Follow the LeaderWe need to lead in such a way that our followers know that we are for them: they can come to us in times of need, in difficulties, in moments of frustration; we want to hear their ideas and we are interested in their personal and professional lives. But we should manage in such a way that our ever-developing followers understand their role in the greater machinery of the organization and the importance of getting things done. Both leadership and management are important and each have their role, but let us remember you really can’t manage people (have you ever tried to manage your spouse?) and your can’t lead inanimate objects like company objectives. Let us as leaders make the development of our followers our primary objective and watch how quickly people begin to grow, unite and flourish as persons and as workers.

Photo credit: expertinfantry / Foter / (CC BY 2.0)
Photo credit: One Way Stock / Foter / (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Photo credit: Nagy David / Foter / (CC BY 2.0)

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My name is Michael Johnson. I am a child of the King of kings and Lord of lords. I have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and I am on a journey of faith to become like Jesus Christ.

I am a husband and father, an adventurer and seeker, an artist and a musician (of sorts).

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Mike, I think this is a great article that may spark some debate as to the role of leadership: Developing followers? Or, developing other leaders? I think you are hitting on both areas actually.

  • Reshma Evans

    Kevin, this is a great point. I have taken several leadership courses in the past 15 years, in both the business and educational fields. A lesson that stands out is that great, effective leaders are great and effective because their desire, in addition to the management of the ‘business’, is to grow other leaders. Leaders are like stay-at-home moms 🙂 We recognize that SAHMs play a multitude of roles including caretaker, housekeeper, nurse, chauffeur, referee, teacher… the list goes on. Likewise, leaders also have these multi-dimensional roles. I would offer that great leaders don’t think in terms of leaders/followers, rather that their position (formal or informal) allows them to empower others to maximize their full potential, whether that be in a formal leadership position or not. Effective leaders are also effective listeners, teachers, facilitators, coaches, managers, and have an understanding of where the talents in their organization lie. And as Mike wrote, our goal as a leader then, should be to grow that talent and in turn grow that person. This past year, I found myself the ‘team leader’ of a newly restructured team. I had to quickly lose the mentality that my ways were the best and that my ideas were the only ones that mattered. It was a humbling balancing act to be the facilitator of our team meetings and keep the agenda moving forward and at the same time, hold myself back from giving my input first. I needed to know what my team thought, and whether or not it I agreed with it, was irrelevant. Many times others had ideas that were far better than anything I could have come up with. While one of my gifts may be that of being looked to as a leader, I was definitely not given creativity as a gift! Recognizing that fact and utilizing my team members’ strengths resulted in a team where more people felt like they belonged and like they had a purpose. This has allowed our team to grow as a team, but has also given individuals the opportunity to grow as leaders in their strengths. Ultimately, shouldn’t our goal as a leader be to prepare others to one day be able to take on these leadership roles themselves?

    • Reshma, I think you are spot on and you have provided the kind of comment and dialog that, as writers, we live for! Mike Johnson is a great new addition to our team of writers at Leadership Voices.

    • Reshma,

      You have made some really good points here. It is so important (and humbling) to realize that our role as leaders means letting go. As leaders we must really allow others to use their gifts and abilities even if we wouldn’t do things the same way as they are. Empowering and releasing are tremendous (and vital) parts of building others up.


  • Reshma a great response. I was told once by a friend who is also a teacher, when I asked him, how do you do it. He responded with “You have to understand you are nurturing a flower, you may never get to see bloom.” I think that what leaders need to understand themselves, if you truly want to share your gifts as a leader, you need to grow new leaders. Only growing followers, would mean to hold back and not share all that you could. Dont we strive for our children to have it better than we do?