Any vision, idea or organization that lacks followership is destined for extinction in the long run. The subject of followership is very vital in human life because almost every aspect of human endeavour is so interwoven that none thrives in isolation. Although the advent of social media seems to have amplified it, the term “follower” is as old as the gospel. You may choose to call them clients, customers, users, the electorate, congregation, members, disciples etc.
Also, whoever commands more followership in a specific field ultimately influences the culture and trends in that field. He dictates what’s acceptable and what’s not – his products or ideas become the gold standard against which the others are measured.
Proverbs 14:28 reads thus: “in the multitude of people is the king’s honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.” Simply put, what keeps a king on his throne is the number of supporters he has behind him. If he has a few supporters, his days are numbered no matter how hard he clings to the throne. Monarchies have fallen because a large part of the populace was no longer in support of the monarchs. The same applies to elected officials in democracies.
In Acts 12:1-3, Herod oppressed the followers of Christ and apprehended Peter because “he saw that it pleased the Jews.” But at other times, the Chief priests and scribes were very careful to lay their hands on Jesus and his disciples because they feared the multitude would revolt. So, people (followers) are very important.
Benefits of building followership
If this is true when talking about your consumer/customer base, then it’s also true of leadership. Your vision, ideas, goals etc. will make little or no meaning when you’re unable to build disciples.
Let’s take a cue from the greatest teacher and leader that has ever walked the face of this earth, Jesus. When He was about to begin His ministry, He carefully selected twelve men as close followers. These He groomed and they’d eventually become the Apostles. With time he was able through His teachings, miracles and power of the Holy Ghost to win thousands of souls or disciples. These would later be called Christians because their life and vision aligned with that of the anointed One (Jesus Christ)
Your success as a leader largely depends on the number of people who genuinely follow you and your vision. Or rather, who you have trained to genuinely follow you and your vision. Therefore, to become successful, you must consciously build loyal followers – loyal to the vision and your leadership.
1. Achieving your vision as a leader
Some leaders are so bothered about their vision and customers that they neglect the channel through which such vision is accomplished and customers satisfied. Depending on the size of your organization, there’s a chance that you don’t receive all the calls, read and reply to all the mails, attend to all the clients, clean the offices, draw the roster, measure customer satisfaction etc. All these roles and more are possibly assigned to other people. Yes, you might be involved in making decisions that affect all these areas but the execution lies solely on these other shoulders.
Now, if a leader has not been able to build followership, he’ll have a lot of problems. He won’t be able to accomplish much because these disciples cannot serve a vision they don’t embrace. True followers are trained to embrace the vision of the leader and participate actively towards achieving the same.
Without followership, there is no posterity. That an idea or organization outlives the founder is dependent on how much investment he made in his followers, including in his/her children. Vision isn’t hereditary and so must be actively passed.
If your absence leads to the collapse of the organisation you lead, then your leadership role needs a review. The departure of Jesus Christ did not lead to the collapse of His gospel of salvation for mankind. On the contrary, it amplified the Gospel message and today there are billions of people who profess their faith in the Risen Lord unabashedly.
3. You train a successor
As a leader builds followers, he also directly or indirectly trains a successor(s). Many flourishing enterprises have crashed because the successors were ‘outsiders’ even though they’ve been there all along. Certain experiences aren’t written in books that need to be taught. A leader should transmit these to his followers.
4. Followers build the client base
It is your followers that ultimately build the client base. So, focusing only on the clients is a misplaced priority until you take care of those that take care of the clients.
How to build followership
While building followership, there are three points to note:
1. Choose and groom servants not masters.
You don’t want to train satan. Jesus gave an eternal principle on who should be a leader, in Matthew 23 verse 11. It says, “the greatest among you shall be your servant.” Hard and soft skills can be learnt but character defects are difficult to manage.
How do you differentiate a true servant from a man-pleaser? There are several ways but I’ll give you two here: the person that is always active in your presence but passive in your absence, and the one that secretly and/or openly considers his role more important than the rest, isn’t fit to make the list.
2. Train and deploy to avoid brooding enemies.
Knowledge is useful but knowledge in the hands of an idle trained man is dangerous to him, to you and the organization. Find a balance between training and assigning roles to play. The followers need to see a growth path. Where there is none, some people tend to either leave the organization or devise an alternative path for themselves within the same organization. This becomes a petri dish for internal enemies to brood and prosper.
3. Social and emotional intelligence required.
Let me finally add that you need to understand social and emotional intelligence to be a successful leader. The importance of proper human management cannot be overemphasized.
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