Leading by following

We are babysitting Pearl, our son and daughter-in-law’s cat, while they are in China. Pearl has been staying in our bathroom because she does not get along with our three cats (even though those three are her mother and two litter mates). Anyway, at about 2:00 am Pearl starting scratching at the door, wanting out. She woke me up and I could not go back to sleep. So I got up and started my morning routine a little early today.

When I arrived at the office, I had some found time to invest. I typed up the minutes from our administrative committee meeting last night. I serve as the recording clerk for the administrative committee at North Valley Friends Church. I reflected on a brief discussion we had at the conclusion of last night’s meeting. The discussion centered on the best time to have our business meetings. Several comments really made an impression on me. One individual stated that if we had meaningful business for people to participate in, they would attend business meetings. Another person stated that having a published agenda one week ahead would be helpful. Our presiding clerk agreed that that would be a good idea but that he was not that good at getting agendas out.

The thought struck me, “Why do you have to wait for someone to ask you to perform a service, Scot? Couldn’t it be that there is an opportunity to serve, by following a leading, which would provide a leadership function for the group.” Have you experienced how in an instance an entire dialogue occurs within your head about the pros and cons of a particular course of action? That was going on within me. “My job is to take the minutes, the clerk can develop the agenda and request additional help, if needed”. But then I thought, “What would happen if I sent a proposed agenda for our next business meeting to the presiding clerk, along with the minutes from last night’s meeting?”

I built an agenda based on a typical order of business and included items that came out of the administrative committee meeting. I included some guides as to how the agenda could be revised and added to. I also made it clear (I hope) that I was in no way trying to take control, I was simply suggesting a course of action that might be helpful. I did send that agenda on to Bruce along with the minutes this morning.

I hope that in taking the lead in this small way, I was helpful to Bruce and the meeting. Leading and following go hand-in-hand and it is amazing to think that being a good follower is a leadership activity. I suppose that being a good leader is also a followership activity. I will explore that concept in greater depth in the near future. I am reminded of Tom Sergiovanni’s work in educational leadership. Tom’s work in his book Moral Leadership is based on the premise that moral authority is most effective (as oppposed to positional or technical or charismatic) as a basis for leadership, for the source of authority in moral leadership is a set of agreed upon external principles that the entire community agrees to submit to. So, in essence, the leadership function is to point to the commonly agreed upon principles. In this model then, there need be little distinction as to the worth of leading and following, as all members are leading and following. And, it is the responsibility of all to be listening and to lead when appropriate.

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2 Comments on “Leading by following”

  1. Cherice Bock Says:

    I like your observation that following is a leadership activity, and leadership is a following activity in some ways. I think as Friends we try to make leadership an activity of following–following the Spirit, as well as following the “sense of the meeting.” But it’s also important to remember the leadership involved in following well. Good thoughts to ponder!

  2. Scot Says:

    Thank you, Cherice. I am reminded of the words of Jesus in John 8:

    31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

    Following requires that we hold to the teaching of Christ. And it is in this act of following, not just hearing, but responding in obedience that we recognize the truth and enter into freedom.


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