“Following is Leading Backwards”

Thought some of you might like this little article I wrote awhile back:

“Following is Leading Backwards”

Following is leading backwards. The opposite of leading is not following; the opposite of leading is apathy. Following creates the character and the credibility to lead. When we humble ourselves and set aside our dreams to help others accomplish theirs, we catch a glimpse of God’s character.

Joshua influenced his nation beyond his lifetime. He was chosen to replace Moses and lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. It was Joshua who led the people of Israel to march around Jericho. How did Joshua gain such influence?

When Joshua is first mentioned in Scriptures, we find him in a situation we would not imagine for the future leader of God’s children. Joshua was Moses’ assistant, his aid. Joshua did not appear to be headed towards greatness. Joshua was an intern; the person Moses would ask to carry his luggage, put up his tent, or pick up some manna on the way to their meetings.

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel….”

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.”

“Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God….'” – Exodus 24:9-14a

By serving Moses faithfully in mundane ways, Joshua walked into God’s presence! Sharing a meal with God is quite a perk for an assistant. Joshua was later chosen to travel with Caleb and ten other spies to check out the new land. When looking to replace Moses, God did not choose Moses’ brother Aaron or sister Miriam. He did not choose Nadab, Abihu, or any of the seventy elders. He chose Moses’ assistant. God chooses to exalt those who are humble.

When we serve others faithfully and effectively, we work toward accomplishing another person’s vision. When we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for others, our leaders recognize we can be trusted. If we can be trusted as a follower, then we can be trusted with followers.

Early in his new role, Joshua had the opportunity to establish his own reputation as a miracle worker. Just as Moses parted the waters as the Israelites escaped from Egypt, God planned another spectacular water trick to exalt Joshua.

“And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses'” (Joshua 3:7).

After the waters stopped flowing and the people had crossed to the other side, Joshua stood ready to seize the moment. We expect he would point out that this miracle confirmed his leadership. Instead, Joshua chose a different message for the people.

“Joshua said to the Israelites… ‘[God] did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God'” (Joshua 4:21a, 24).

Joshua chose to point people to the Lord’s leadership rather than his own. He was more concerned with building God’s reputation than his own. This should come as no surprise; he spent years building up Moses rather than pursuing his own interests.

We can become a better leader by serving as a better follower. In these moments we discover what Christ meant when he promised that “we find our lives when we lose our lives serving him and serving others.”

Take Away Tips for following others:

Humble yourself by committing to serve someone you would like to emulate.

Choose to follow someone whose vision resonates within your own heart.

Be faithful in the small things, and God will give you more.

If accomplishing the vision of your boss goes against your faith or core beliefs, find a new boss.

Earn the right to be heard. When we are effective at executing our responsibilities, we will gain the attention and the ear of our leaders.

Seek to influence down and laterally even if you cannot always influence up.


How can you apply these ideas to your life and/or organization?

Showing 2 comments
  • Jennifer Stephens

    Not only does following make us humble it also makes us an example to others. If the leader is willing to get down in the dirt and work or clean the toilets that sets an example for others to do the same. We have to remember that it is not all about us, it’s about those we are trying to lead and the best way to lead is lead by our actions not just by our words. It speaks volumes to others around us when we do the job no one else wants to do with a smile on our face and a song on our lips.

pingbacks / trackbacks
Free Consultation

If you're interested in a free 30-min consultation with me, simply fill out this form and I'll contact you!