Three Mistakes Followers Make and How They Hurt, Part 4

In Part 1 of this series, I explained the term, “follower” and reviewed those three key mistakes.

In Part 2, I explored the first mistake – We often associate trust with agreement.

In Part 3, the focus was the second mistake:  We aren’t specific/explicit about our loyalty.

Finally for today, the third mistake: We mistake following with passivity.


It’s one of the most dangerous ideas in the church: “Let the pastor do it; that’s his job.” Or, “I’m willing to go to my small group, but it’s understood that the leader does everything.”

The leader and follower may have different roles in the relationship, but they do each have jobs to do and it is a relationship, requiring engagement on both sides if only because there are spiritual gifts on both sides (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4:10, etc.). Following is not a spectator sport. One leader said: “I don’t know whether it’s the busyness of our culture or my ineffectiveness as a leader, but it seems more and more difficult for people to invest their time in what we’re doing. To act.”

The 80/20 principle – originally posed in a different context by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto – predicts that 20% of the people in any congregation, Sunday School class or small group will do 80% of the work needed for the group’s effectiveness. That’s not a biblical principle, of course, but leaders see it frequently. In Pareto’s original work, it was the discovery that 20% of Italian landowners possessed 80% of the land, but the principle seems to be applicable in many leadership contexts as well. Even if you may not have known specifically what it’s called, it’s likely you’ve seen the principle in action, to the detriment of the congregation, class or group.

And this idea goes beyond simply doing what the leader says to do, but involves followers taking initiative, serving the leader and the group as the leader is working to serve the follower.

What’s interesting is that the research indicates that the older you are, the more likely you are to fall into this particular trap. Boomers are more likely to associate leadership with a hierarchy while Millennials tend to see leaders and followers as being in a more equal status.

Following is not a spectator sport, although its tempting to treat it that way.

So, to conclude, the three mistakes leaders make that hurt:

1. We don’t really listen.
2. We don’t ask for feedback.
3. We don’t affirm with connection.

And the three mistakes followers make:

1. We often associate trust with agreement.
2. We aren’t specific/explicit about our loyalty.
3. We mistake following with passivity.

Since most of us serve in both roles, the more we can do to avoid these common mistakes, the more effective we will be at each.


Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It

Managing Your Boss (Harvard Business Review Classics)

The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow (BK Business)

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations

Get leaderhelps content sent to your inbox automatically.