By Katherine Hiegel | Contributor
Whether in school, the workplace, politics or even church, we hear a lot about the need for leaders.
When did followers become second-class?
Not being a leader doesn't automatically mean you don't have ideas and skills worth contributing. It doesn't-or rather, shouldn't-make you less valuable, but considering society's obsession with leadership in both public and private spheres, it often seems that way. The Western world in particular emphasizes standing out, blazing a trail, setting a trend-being unique, admired and in charge.
Granted, none of this is inherently bad. It is undeniably true that we need leaders. At their best, leaders make innumerable and priceless decisions that shape the very course of history. Where would we be without George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr.?
But rarely do we pause to ask ourselves the flip side of that question: Where would those famed individuals have found themselves if they hadn't gained a following?
A leader can't be a party of one; leading implies a following. And as any cubicle-dweller will attest, not all executives are worth following. A mere title does not a commander make.
Even so, many dismiss following as something passive and almost meaningless, something that belongs to the realms of Facebook and Twitter. Critics use such disparaging terms as "sheeple" to describe supporters who don't contribute much of value except for the weight of their collective (and often uninformed) opinions.
I suspect, oftentimes, the core difference between leaders and followers is one of personality: those who feel more comfortable on a pedestal will naturally seek that out, whereas quieter types are more content keeping to themselves.
I have never felt a strong urge to seek a formal leadership position, but this has fostered feelings of guilt over the years as I've watched peers become camp counselors, PAs and Sunday school teachers. I've wondered, "Am I just lazy? Am I not good enough if I don't get more involved?"
Both failures of poor leading and poor following are hallmarks of human nature. We instinctively want to go our own ways, to see ourselves as more important than we think we are. In our hubris, we love the spotlight-though we're also perfectly happy to be cowardly and complacent. However, from a Christian perspective, what's fascinating about the life of Jesus was how he fit the role of a follower as much as a leader. He was both the servant who washed his disciples' feet and the superior who commanded them. And although many others answered to Jesus, he made it clear he answered to an even higher power: his father.
If "leadership" isn't for you, then I'd encourage you to be the best follower you can be. You are far from helpless or useless; you have more power than you know. And if you're currently in a position of authority, thank you. We owe you a debt of gratitude. But never forget where your authority comes from and whom you're called to serve-and, above all, whom you're commanded to follow.