10 Ways to Be a Good Follower

I have a strong desire to help improve the quality of leadership in churches and ministries, especially among the next generation of Christian leaders. My youngest son, Nate, who has already proven to be a great leader in the environments where he’s served, has consistently encouraged me over the years I need to develop good followers, along with developing good leaders.

He’s right.

We aren’t all called to be leaders, although I have a contention that we are all leaders in some environment in our life, even if it’s self leadership. The point is clear though, not all of us will lead at the same level. Equally true is it is difficult to be a good leader without good followers – maybe impossible.

I’ve listed qualities of good leaders in several posts. I suppose there is room for a companion post. So, I set out to make a new list.

Granted, these are important to me as a leader. You may have your own list. In fact, I’ll welcome you to share your thoughts on characteristics of a good follower in the comments.

Here are 10 ways to be a good follower:

Help me lead better

You see things I don’t see. You hear things I don’t hear. You have experiences I don’t have. Help me be a better leader in the areas where I may not have the access to information you do. I love when the children’s ministry, for example, alerts me of people who are hitting home runs in their area so I can personally thank them. I’ve made some great connections this way. I should be recognizing individual contributions anyway and this helps me do that more often. Help your leader do his or her job better. Good followers find ways to make the leader better.

Do what you commit to do

One of the most frustrating things for a leader is to assign a task, practice good delegation, and then watch the ball drop because the person didn’t follow through on what they said they would. It could be an issue of not having the right support, resources or know how, or it could be the person doesn’t know how to say “No”, but good followers find a way to get the task completed, whether by personally doing it or through further delegation. If you aren’t going to complete it, or if you find out along the way you may not, let me know in plenty of time to offer help or find someone who can.

Don’t commit if you won’t put your heart into it

If the leader strives to be a good leader, then he or she wants the task completed well. That won’t happen with half-hearted devotion. Good followers give their best effort towards completing the work assigned to them, knowing it reflects not only their efforts, but the efforts of the leader and the entire team. We need passion from those who follow leadership.

Pray for me

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, some days I have none. I sometimes wonder why God called me to be the leader. I rely on the prayers of others, especially from those I am attempting to lead.

Complete my shortcomings

The reason we are a team is because you have skills I don’t have. To be a good follower means you willingly come along side me to make the team better, bringing insights, talents and resources I can’t produce without you. Don’t get frustrated at something I may not understand or be gifted at doing — or you have to show me how to do — but realize this is one way God is using you on the team.

Respect me

There will be days when I’m not respectable, but I do hold the responsibility to lead, so encourage me when you can. Chances are I’ll continue to improve if I am led to believe I am doing good work. In public settings, even when you don’t necessarily agree with my decisions, honor me until you have a chance to challenge me privately.

Love the vision

Genuinely love the vision of the team. You’ll work hardest in those areas for which you have passion. Ask God to give you a burning desire to see the vision succeed, then become a contagious advocate of that vision. 

Be prepared

When bringing an issue to me for a decision, do your homework and have as much information as possible. Know the positives and negatives, how much it will cost, and who the major players are in the decision. Be ready to open to having your idea challenged in order to make it better. I also believe in consensus building and a team spirit and don’t want to make all the decisions, so it’s probably wise to have a solution or two in mind to suggest should you be asked.

Stay healthy

I admit, sometimes I run at too fast a pace. I believe a healthy organization is a growing organization, which requires a lot of energy. I also think we are doing Kingdom work, which is of utmost and urgent importance. You can’t be as effective on the team if you are unhealthy physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. You can’t always control these areas and life has a way of disrupting each of them, but as much as it depends on you, remain a healthy follower.

Leave when it’s time

I realize this is a hard word, but when you can no longer support the vision or my leadership, instead of causing disruption on the team, leave gracefully. If the problem is me, certainly work through the appropriate channels to address my leadership, but if the problem is simply differences of opinion, or something new God is doing in your heart, or you just don’t love it anymore and can’t get it back, don’t stay when you cease being helpful to the team. (Never simply stay for a paycheck.) God may even be using your frustration to stir something new in your heart.

What else would you add? What makes a good follower?

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30 thoughts on “10 Ways to Be a Good Follower

  1. HI,BROTHER RON,I AM ROD FROM THE PHILS. ITS MY FIRST TIME TO READ YOUR VERY GOOD INFORMATIONS ABOUT LEADERS AND FOLLOWERS.KEEP UP THIS HOLY WORK.SOMEBODY UP THERE IS GUIDING YOU.THANKS.

  2. Hi Ron,
    Great tips here,
    but i think a good follower as well as a leader should have the quality of a good servant, then only he can be a good follower and a leader.
    Thanks for sharing this valuable tips here
    Keep inform
    Best regards
    Philip

  3. REVIVING WORK ETHIC, by Eric Chester, which is a great book for any leader seeking to teach good followership, especially to today’s emerging young workforce.

    Also check out Bruce Tulgan's blog. He has started concentrating on developing good leaders. While he not speaking from a Christian or kingdom perspective, his thoughts are relevant.

      • Thanks Ron, I just think listening skills are a dying "skill"…when I took some management courses in college (while being a non-trad when returning to complete my degree, 30 year plan…whole different blog ๐Ÿ™‚ we had to give speeches. We were taught great pointers for giving a speech, but I asked why is there not a course for learning crucial listening skills. It should be a mandatory!

  4. Many new followers go to Church to have a specific need met. Maybe its a personal crisis, sometimes it is loneliness or feeling lost, or having no purpose in life. God guides people to His house for many reasons to receive Grace in life.

    Even though some earthly “problems” may not seem to be solved, or a “need” visibly “met”, there are followers that grow in the Church and learn to recieve God’s Grace no matter their earthly circumstances. They give of themselves to others, learn to forgive others, and realize their faults and the pain they have caused others and ask for God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of those they may have wronged. These are true Followers of the Lord, those who want to live in Peace with their fellow man.

    Then you have those so-called followers who always seem to dwell on themselves, who always ask for prayer, who prey upon the kindness of the fellowship of the Church to benefit their own need yet never really seem to give or care much about others. Do you notice this follower always has strife and never Peace? It’s because they are self-serving and aren’t listening to God…that maybe that problem or need is meant to teach GRACE. The Rolling Stones sang “…You can’t always get want you want…”, but these followers should focus on God’s message to them rather that relying on everyone in Church to help them…Psalm 118:8 sums that up for these followers. That’s what I got from Ron’s statement…”Leave when it’s time…”

    If you can’t see the forest beyond the trees, don’t get others lost in the strife with you!

  5. This is really good. I've been thinking lately that it's just as difficult to be a good follower as it is to be a good leader — and, in our culture, we're rarely taught how to follow well. Thanks for this.

  6. Great post. You mention this above, but honoring leaders publicly is huge. As a follower, especially a young follower, it's easy forget that high profile leaders often have no shortage of critics. Because of that, ideas and suggestions can be taken as criticism, if they are not matched by public and private affirmation. I've had leaders question my loyalty to them because my suggestions far outweighed my vocal affirmations. Those circumstances make me a detriment to the organization. I've learned that a good follower has to earn their leaders trust through public affirmation, and leaders need to know for sure that their subordinates are on their team.

  7. I agree with Kevin. Great post. One area that is lacking in our western culture is coachability. It is not a real word but it is a real need for a follower.

    Too many of us see a correction as an indictment. Followers must be not just be willing to grow, but must thirst for growth. Needing to grow is not a short-coming. It is something we all must do.

  8. Yes, Ron. I just read yet another post this morning highlighting strong traits of a leader. I thought what was lacking in that developing strong followers is such a need in our Western culture.

    Hats off to you. Excellent post.

  9. Perhaps there is amissing component. Leave when its time? Where did you get that "vision" thing Ron? Apparently, you know when the vision runs out and the time comes for you to leave. What about the new vision? What about the vision of those you may be c"called" to lead next? What if the "vision" already exists and it is not necessarily the one you thought it would be? Can you adapt? Can you be open to the possibility that God has a different vision than the one trapped in your mind? We shall see. Time will tell. Probably, a short time.

  10. I really loved this post! Very cool! I shared the section on Complete My Shortcomings with our online team at my church. Thanks! I would add: Don't follow me 1st, follow God 1st, be called to God 1st! Have a Happy Monday! AWE-GOD!
    Twitter: kmac4him