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Rearview Leadership

By Doug Franklin May 27, 2015

What makes a great leader? Most of us measure our leadership against other leaders in our lives. We study the pastors at our church and measure ourselves against their leadership. Or we look to a local business leader and wonder if we’re following the same leadership strategy. Is this a good way to determine your leadership competency?

It could be. It’s always a good practice to follow in the footsteps of proven leaders. But what works for one leader won’t necessarily work for us. God made us all different, and that includes our leadership styles. Just watch a few reality TV competitions, and you’ll soon realize that just because someone impresses a few judges or is coached by a superstar doesn’t mean they’ll achieve success. Out of all the winners on “American Idol,” “The Voice,” “Top Chef,” “Project Runway,” and “The Apprentice,” only a handful has achieved the success they were promised. Why? Because leadership isn’t something you can mass-produce.

A better way to evaluate your leadership is to look over your shoulder at who is following you. Great leaders are determined by the quality of their followers. What do your disciples look like? Are they humble, kind, generous? Do they live out the vision you are calling them to? Are they responsible? Are they willing to sacrifice to accomplish the mission? Are they energized or defeated? Your answers to these questions will start you on the path to growing your leadership. Here are a few next steps:

1) Care for your followers.
People tend to stick with leaders who care about them. Have you connected one-on-one with your people in the last seven days? If not, make it a priority to give a personal word of encouragement to each of them soon.

“Great leaders are determined by the quality of their followers.”

2) Cast clear vision.
Make sure all your people know what success looks like—for this year, this week, and today. When we cast a clear vision, people will be energized to follow it. Like on any journey, we have to post clear road signs. Otherwise, the people following us will get lost.

3) Walk the walk.
Before you can ask others to live the mission, you must live it yourself. Would you want to follow people who don’t practice what they preach? Make sure your followers see you doing the things you are challenging them to do. So many people want to climb to the top so their lives will be easier, but that’s getting things backwards. Leaders show up earlier and stay later. They get their hands dirtier. They’re the first ones out into battle so their people will follow in their steps.

4) Value people before tasks.
Do your followers know that you value them as much or more than the tasks you’re asking them to accomplish? There’s nothing worse than feeling replaceable, and people can tell when a task is more important to you than they are. So discover and call out people’s God-given gifts and passions. Place them where they can use those gifts to do great things.

5) Give away your leadership.
Your number-one goal as leaders should be to look for people to take your place. True leadership reproduces itself. Are you giving away leadership, or are you taking credit? What would happen if you stopped leading tomorrow? If you’ve created an environment that can’t function without you, then you’ve missed the point of leadership. But if, when you look into the rearview mirror, you see growing leaders who could one day step in to take your place, you can rest assured that you’ve done your job.

CC Image courtesy Massimiliano Calamelli on Flickr.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More