Mis-labeled Leadership

It’s become culturally cool to talk about leading.

But I’m a little nervous about all the leadership labels.  I fear that in being so quick to label everyone a leader we’ve watered down the tremendous responsibility of leadership, and we’ve inadvertently suggested you’re less than if you don’t lead.

We need great leaders.  Leaders who understand their responsibility and the sacrifices associated with it.

But we need followers too… and good ones.  It’s the completion of the equation which makes for great teams.

What do you think?

Let’s discuss this one today…

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  • Sara Stacy July 10, 2012  

    As someone who works in leadership development, I struggle in this tension between “everyone’s a leader” and the response of “if they are, then who are they leading?”  I think it’s a lie we’ve been ingrained to believe that we must be leading, because if we’re not then we’re not really doing.

    • Jenni Catron July 10, 2012  

      Sara, I think sometimes the leadership word has been expanded too far. Oftentimes people use the words “leader” and “influencer” interchangeably but I think there are important distinctions between the two.

  • Liz Rios July 10, 2012  

    I so agree with you Jenni. Talking, writing, speaking about leadership has become just as popular as church planting and we both know that not everyone should be planting or leading. I think one has to try really hard to stay focused on what God has called them to do and many times it will be a followership vs leadership role. The thing is the “kingdom” doesn’t pay any mind to the followers, some leaders who have become celebrities due to the enormous help of their “followers” don’t even remember to say thank you to the ones that helped him build the church/organization they are know famous for leading. I don’t know how to tackle this other than to remind leaders to make a big deal about those who step up to follow not just those who are in a hurry to lead, magazines should have a follower spotlight vs just highlighting leaders, then maybe, maybe, people will understand the equation 1 great leader + 1 great follower = 2 people toward individual & organizational destiny. 

    • Jenni Catron July 10, 2012  

      So true, Liz. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Sbaafc July 10, 2012  

    Leaders all ways have a bullseye on their backs. Case and point. Some years back I went to a church that was removing their pastor. Three men were very vocal in removing him. After the services we had a vote all three got up and stated what they did not like about this pastor and pushed their eagenda. They were not on the board or deacons just long standing members and well trusted by many. We voted the pastor out. Now we needed a pulpit committee. The church vote that all 3 men should be apart of this committee. But all three declined to be leaders. They had no trouble pointing a finger at someone that was leading but had no leadership skills. Leadership should not be taken lightly its hard work and time consuming. But it also is not determend by education or our pay grade it is God given. Leaders should alway lead by example first.. Jenni your a great and blessed leader for all of us that serve Christ and CrossPoint…..Scott

    • Jenni Catron July 10, 2012  

      Thank you, Scott. I couldn’t agree more with your comment, “leadership should not be taken lightly”.

  • Tessa July 10, 2012  

    I know what you mean about there needing to be a balance between leaders and followers. It seems like everybody is SUPPOSED to be a leader, but in order to lead you need followers. But sometimes, being a “leader” is being a follower. A lot of times if you follow someone, then other people will join you. So in that sense, you ‘lead’ the people.

    I think I just confused myself!

    • Jenni Catron July 10, 2012  

      Haha, Tessa! I was tracking right along with your confusion 🙂

  • Jennifer July 10, 2012  

    The pressure to be a leader makes great followers into horrible leaders. It’s sad. I think you are right in saying, “It’s the completion of the equation which makes for great teams”.

    • Jenni Catron July 10, 2012  

      Ahhh, that’s good Jennifer, “the pressure to be a leader makes great followers into horrible leaders”. When we push people out of their giftedness and force them into leadership, we may be limiting the gifts that God has actually given them.

  • Adam Legg July 10, 2012  

    I think real leaders are leading people whether they have the title of “leader” or not.

    Looking for a leader? Don’t look at who has the title, look at who is already doing it!

  • Bill Kraski July 11, 2012  

    John Maxwell says we’re all leaders because we all influence someone.  But I doubt the person who only influences the 2 or 3 they hang out with would be considered a leader by most.

    On the other hand, I understand your qualms.  Our ministry used to have ordained pastors in all leadership positions.  And probably were too quick to ordain some.  Not all stayed pastoring, some retained the title but didn’t function.  And there are some who do more pastoring without any title.  As long as organizations are created and led by fallen men, there are always going to be those who lead without being called leader.  And those who will be called leaders, but rarely lead.  We just have this wonderful knack for sometimes selecting the wrong people.

  • Doug July 11, 2012  

    Great leaders know how to follow. It is part of the equation that defines them as great. So to anyone who seeks to lead, the first lesson is to learn to follow. Some followers will become great leaders, but for the vast majority, we need to find our Sitting Bull and get in line behind him/her and help them achieve the great vision they impart.

  • Timothy Croll July 13, 2012  


    This is a great point.

    First leadership is based on the power of influence.
    Northouse (2010) points out there are two separate power bases within which
    leadership creates the influence. 1) Positional Power which uses legitimate
    positions, reward and coercive methods to gain influence among the followers.
    2) Personal Power which uses referent power and expertise to gain influence
    among the followers. This topic could alone take up volumes but for the point
    of this discussion Personal Power is the only long term effective method of influential
    leadership.  Referent power comes from
    those around you granting you the right to influence them. If you follow my
    line of thinking then they goes to the point of being servant leader. Servant
    leaders by definition are typically followers.

    So the core of discussion on leadership lies in how leadership
    is defined. What is your philosophy of leadership? The Servant leader model
    points toward being the least among your peers which in turn gains the most
    influence. This is backward thinking for many within the world today but as we
    study scripture it appears over and over again that God chooses those that are
    least to great things.

    I would propose that in order to be a great leader you must
    first start as a great follower. As we go through our journey in life our first
    goal should be to increase our ability to follow which ironically actually
    increase our ability to increase our sphere of influence which will lead to
    greater leadership position. However, these leadership positions are not based
    on the Positional Power granted to many such as a CEO or a corner office. The leadership
    position will result in your ability to leave behind a legacy of lives you
    influence to the greater good of the kingdom. I love Tony Dungy’s (2010) model
    of Mentor Leadership. Think of these as steps when influencing a life. 1.
    Engage 2. Educate 3. Equip 4. Empower 5. Energize 6. Elevate.

    Hope this helps the discussion along.


    Northouse. P. G. (2010). Leadership theory and practice (5th
    ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. ISBN-13: 9781412974882


    T & Whitaker, N. (2010). The Mentor
    Leader. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • Julianne July 13, 2012  

    Jenni, great post and I agree with there being a balance.  Unfortunately a lot of times I see people that are put in positions of leadership because they are popular, but they don’t really lead well.  A friend reminded me this week that true leadership is drenched in integrity, not popularity.