Summary: To be a great leader you must first become a great follower.
Follow the Leader”
It was John Maxwell who gave us this very simple definition of what a leader is. He said a leader is someone who has followers. And here is the way he puts it…if you believe you are a leader and you turn around and no one is following you, then you’re really not as leader. If you turn around and there is no one there, you’re not leading..you’re just taking a walk in the park. To be a leader, you must have followers.
Now perhaps you are one of those people who others naturally follow. You are what we often refer to as a born leader. Jesus certainly was. But that’s not where most of us are today. Most of us struggle with leadership. We’re not born leaders and we’re really not sure how to get there. We don’t even know what the requirements are to become one.
Let me ask you a question this morning. How many of you have ever struggled in any way at all with leadership? Most of us have. Some of us are like the fellow John Maxwell describes—we have turned around to check on our followers only to realize that there is no one there. They’re all on a coffee break or they’ve all called in sick or taken a leave of absence so really you’re just taking a walk in the park.
I read a cartoon this week that showed 2 men sitting in an office having a discussion about leadership…one looks at the other and he says, “let me ask you a question, how can you know whether or not people recognize you as a good leader…is is the number of degrees you have? Is it your title? Is it how big your office is? What really matters? The other fellow replies—he says you have to ask yourself one simple question and this is it—is anyone following you?
The Bible makes it clear that people were following Jesus. Think about this—Jesus is the only leader I know of who had followers before He was born. Thousands of years before Jesus arrived in the flesh, OT prophets were committed to following Him. Then we walk over into the NT and we see the same thing. The wise men came to worship someone they had never met. John the Baptist was so committed that it became his life to prepare a path for Jesus. He was so committed that John’s words were this…He must increase, I must decrease. In other words, more of Him, less of us. But make no mistake about it, john was definitely a leader. John was the one who was out there doing all he could to prepare as many people as possible to follow Jesus. That was his mission in life.
And it worked. As a result of his leadership thousands began to follow Jesus. If you look earlier in this chapter you will find the story of the triumphant entry. This was when Jesus was at the height of His popularity. He had performed miracles, healings, fed the 5000. People loved Him. And as a result they followed Him. Now He rides into town and the streets are packed to with people wanting to see Him. Palm branches are laid on the streets for Him like a red carpet and people are calling Him King. Clearly the people were ready to crown Him king.
Now this brings me to the BIG TRUTH that I hope to convey to you today and here it is…To be a great leader, you must have great followers. To be a great leader you must first be a great follower.
This is where most of us struggle. We don’t like to follow. Perhaps you are one of those who when you were in school your parents would often receive a note on your report card that read, “your child does not follow directions well.” You may have been a good listener- you may have even understood the directions, you just didn’t want to follow. As many followers as Jesus had there were even more who chose not to follow Him. Many more. There were some who chose to follow Him and then they stopped. Many just said no from the beginning.
But in this passage this morning we find some who have made the most important choice we can ever make..—they chose to follow Jesus.
Let’s look at it. John 12: 20-22. It is here that we begin to understand a few things about leadership and one of them is this.. If a follower wants to become a leader then he must learn to take people on the journey with him. He must demonstrate to others that he knows how to follow.
The Greeks came to Philip…they said sir, we want to see Jesus. Philip went and told Andrew and then the two of them go to tell Jesus. Now look at the next part. V. 23.