The secret to great leadership

“Come, follow me.”

This is an age-old beckoning of Christ to His disciples. The word “disciple” literally means “learner, pupil, to enroll as a scholar,” implying a student learning from someone much more wise and learned. But, at least for me, following can be so hard…

During the World Race training camp one year ago, as we worshipped, God showed me a picture of myself. I was running ahead of Jesus and pulling him along, rather than allowing Him to lead. In that moment, He was revealing to me an aspect of my relationship with Him that needed some work.

I was indignant when I was not chosen as a team leader at the end of our training camp. I cried out to God, asking Him, “Why? What makes them more capable than me?” And His response in my heart was so clear: I can teach you more this year not being in leadership than otherwise. The best leaders are the greatest followers.

I resisted this word, sure that I was going to be put in place as a team leader month three, then month four, and each new time that new teams were chosen. I still feel bad about our first team and how I didn’t trust the leadership that had been put in place. I asked so many questions – Where are we going? What is our ministry today? How much money do we have budgeted for lunch? etc. etc. Not only was this mentally draining for me, but it was frustrating for him. Although I couldn’t see it at the time, my resistance made it harder for him to lead us effectively.

As the months went on, I began to see how my identity was wrapped in being seen in the forefront, in being in control, and making the right decisions. It’s only when I was taken out of leadership that God was able to show me how my difficulty with following is based on the fact that I have a hard time trusting other people.

In order to follow, you must be humble, submitting to the other person’s best judgment and trusting that the other person will lead you to where you need to go. You have to be ok with not having all the answers, all of the time. I began to realize that there are many ways to get somewhere, and my way isn’t the only high way.

The difference between leading and following was really made clear to me during our flight back to the States at the end of the World Race. We had an eight-hour layover during the day in Seoul, South Korea, and had the opportunity to go into the city. Caleb had a friend who lived in Seoul, and we made plans to meet up with her – which is way easier said than done in a foreign country where between the five of us we knew exactly two words in Korean.

After purchasing tickets for the one-hour train ride so we could get downtown, we saw a subway map that was more complicated than most spider webs and filled with the squiggly Asian characters that all look the same to me. As you can see, there are five “blue” lines – and for a moment I wished I was back in Boston, where the entire subway system has only four colors. We stared at it for exactly five minutes, debating which way we needed to go.

We talked to people, trying to pronounce the location that we were going to: “So Dunk Tun” – but on the map there were three locations that sounded exactly like this. At one point we found someone who spoke some English but wasn’t able to help us much because we didn’t even know where we were going.

We arrived at one station, then found out that we had to walk thirty minutes to the station before, and finally found Caleb’s friend. She treated us to an absolutely delicious breakfast of berry crepes, eggs benedict, and cinnamon chai tea. It was an amazing way to end our World Race.

And then she led us straight back to the airport. We followed her like little sheep – where she walked, we walked. When she got off the train, we followed. We didn’t question her because we completely and totally trusted that she would get us to where we needed to go. After all, she knew the route way better than we did. As a result, what took us two hours to get there, took us only one hour to get back.

And that’s what God has been teaching me. When we try to lead in our own strength, we end up frustrated, lost and confused, having to backtrack many times. But when we allow Him to lead, it’s easy. We simply have to follow His footsteps.

So, to sum up what I’ve learned on the World Race, I would say that God has humbled me, allowing me to be ok when I’m in not in control. And as a result, I’ve learned how to follow – I’m more comfortable trusting other people and God with the twists and turns of life. I’ve come to discover that the secret of great leadership is also knowing how to be the best follower.

Ultimately, none of us are in charge anyways, We can dance on our own, but it’s way more fun to let your daddy lead and dance on His shoes.


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