When following is actually leading

Three Wise MenThere is a powerful image that each of us have of the Three Wise Men kneeling at the manger in Bethlehem. These men have been known in song as “kings”. You remember the song, don’t you?

“We three kings of Orient are . . .”

Now, whether or not they really were kings is not a matter that I care to debate today. They were probably more likely some sort of religious or scholarly leader from distant lands. The point for me to make is that they were recognized leaders of some sort or another. And the image that we have of them from Christmas pageants over the years is an image of them arriving and kneeling at the manger and presenting their gifts.

But integral to the story is the fact they were also “followers”. They followed a star. And that star led them to the Baby Jesus. Let’s say it again. These leaders were also followers. Had they not been willing to put their own agendas and egos aside and become followers, they would have missed the single most important event in all of human history.

Here is the leadership trait that I want to emphasize today. Great leaders must be willing to become great followers from time to time. And the paradox of leadership is that we are really both simultaneously. And when we cease to be a follower, we cease to be effective as a leader. And the result of following that star provided these three men with an experience that was transformational and one that needed to be communicated to others.  So, according to Biblical records, these three leaders returned to their homes by a different route to avoid King Herod who was bent on destroying the baby who had been born to be the real One to follow.

What about you? Have you shown an ability to follow as well as lead?

And are you following someone or something worthy of being followed?