“If following Jesus seems difficult, don’t be afraid. Trust him, be confident that he is close to you, he is with you, and he will give you the peace you are looking for and the strength to live as he would have you do.”
St. Pope John Paul II
Several years ago, a friend of mine began working on her dissertation on the topic of “followership.” At the time (and still to this day), I enjoy teasing her about her choice of topic and, more so, the amount of time she gives this passion. While I like to rip on her academic pursuits, I am secretly jealous of anyone who can display the discipline and focus to delve into any topic with such rigor.
Admiration aside, I did question the merit of her topic initially. After all, leaders are where it’s at, right? Look at the preponderance of books, articles, podcasts, and programs focused on turning out and turning up leaders. Don’t we all need to be leaders? Doesn’t the world, and the Church, simply just need more leaders? I hope so, or I might need to dust off the old resume sooner rather than later. However, as I was participating in a small group discussion with other leaders from various industries last week, one of them said something that struck me. “I never thought about how much I’m asking of people when I ask them to follow me.”
The truth was, neither had I. As a leader, do I consider not only the demands of the role I play, but what it demands of others? Am I truly appreciative of the trust they give me, the risks they take because of what I decide, or the effort they expend because of an idea I articulate or a need I identify? Am I conscious of how often I ask people to jump in big and little ways, and they don’t ask why, but how high? As a leader at work, in my family, or at my parish, when was the last time I had to follow?
We heard the iconic calling of Peter, Andrew, James, and John in the Gospel of Matthew this past Sunday. Their followership was no passive event. To say yes, to leave everything, took the courage, vision, and humility that I’m pretty sure one would find in any of the best-selling books today about leadership.
In my discipleship, do I follow like a leader, or do I lead like an authentic follower? Do I demonstrate the courage to trust in the Lord, to listen to His word, to respond to His will for my life? I once joked with my friend that I would consider reading her dissertation if I were having trouble sleeping. Don’t tell her this, but perhaps I might read about how to follow better the next time I’m having trouble leading. Prayers for your followership this week.
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