The most powerful two-word leadership phrase Jesus ever uttered was “Follow me.” The apostle Paul told believers to imitate him just as he imitated Christ. Follow me, imitate me —both statements refer to the power of leading by example.
A series of questions lurks in the minds of followers—questions that can best be answered simply by observing their leader. When followers wonder how joyful they should be about their work, all they should have to do is observe their leader’s joy level. “How joyful is he?” they ask themselves. “How joyful is she? Because that’s how joyful I will be!” When they wonder how determined they should be in their jobs, all they should have to do is observe their leader’s level of determination. “That’s how determined we’ll be!”
When they wonder how much credit they should give to others when good ideas get implemented, when they wonder how gracious they should be to their peers, when they wonder how quick they should be to admit their mistakes, when they wonder how much faith they should have, all they should have to do is look to their leader, and those followers will have their answers. Right?
Leaders must never expect from others anything more than they’re willing to deliver themselves. They should never expect higher levels of commitment, creativity, persistence, or patience than what they themselves manifest on a regular basis.
If you cannot say, “Follow me,” to your followers—and mean it—then you’ve got a problem. A big one. Speed of the leader, speed of the team.
“Follow my values. Follow my integrity. Follow my work ethic, my commitment, and my communication patterns. Fight as I fight. Focus as I focus. Sacrifice as I sacrifice. Love as I love. Repent as I repent. Admit wrong as I admit wrong. Endure hardship as I endure hardship.” When requisite actions back them up, these are the words that set followers’ hearts soaring.
Hybels, B. (2008). Axiom: powerful leadership proverbs. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.