"Big Four" Highlights


 

Followship in Faith

The corporate world is catching on to an old Christian concept

By Jason Godin

Followership – an ability to follow others – is a trending topic in business circles. An increasing number of employers are requesting trainers to teach its basics to their employees, according to a recent Wall Street Journal column. “Many offices are finding they have plenty of leaders,” teases the subtitle of the column, “but not enough followers.”

Sharing observations made by book authors as well as senior-level business leaders, the column summarized the principal skills of followership as “self-starters” who:

  • “think independently”
  • “notice and solve problems”
  • “help the boss meet goals”
  • “deliver criticism to higher-ups when needed”

 

It may sound silly on the surface, but valuing the capacity to follow in ourselves and others makes sense. As more of us today work from home, we need to be able to accept direction from a remote authority to do our job well. On social media, we click to “follow” a person or a group, and exchange ideas and share experiences, building online relationships that require us to be attentive and responsive to others. The interconnected realities of today demand followership of the first order.

So why are there so few professed followers? The answer may begin with the value our culture has placed, for generations, on the self-made man, the independent self-starter. A premium has been placed on individuals reaching the pinnacle of their profession to be considered successful. If you don’t have the drive to reach the top and lead, you’re seen as incomplete or incompetent, perhaps lacking in a necessary skill, one who has surrendered or simply given up on climbing the corporate ladder. From 19th-century industrialists to 21st-century web wizards, success has been popularly measured in terms serving yourself, doing whatever it takes to get ahead, even if it means sacrificing faith and family in the process.

Yet if we all aspire to reign as king of our own mountain, who is left to carry out the regal rules? Christians long ago solved that mystery. To be a follower is very far from being a failure in this world. In fact, faithful followers of Christ the King are given a very positive and winning name – disciples. 

Disciples aren’t losers or also-rans. They are, as St. Paul says, running the race and going for the top prize which is heaven (cf. 1 Cor 9:24). Discipleship never places you as the center of your own existence. It puts God first, selfless service to others a close second, with command to love your neighbor as yourself providing an important balance. To put a twist on the corporate followership concept, we may join it to the models of Christian fellowship and discipleship to coin the phrase “followship in faith.”

Followship in faith isn’t mindless. It is proactive to the core because it calls continually for humility, an ongoing appraisal about not just yourself but your interactions, and always finds courage to say words like “wrong” or “false,” even to those in charge. It requires self-awareness, self-possession, an ability to see another’s point of view and, ultimately, love, even if it means less for me.

Yes, the ability to follow is not and never been easy to develop. But that doesn’t mean we don’t aspire to achieve it, for followship in faith helps the “boss” – God – meet his goals. Thankfully he’s as much mentor as maker, showing us by example how to start solving matters at hand: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 16:24-25).

Followship in faith. It is a summons to discipleship from the source of our life, a diagnosis that speaks to what and why our world isn’t working well, and a way that we all can help make things better, beginning where we are and with the ones we love most – at home and at work.

Jason Godin is managing editor of Fathers for Good.