Posts Tagged ‘follower’

Leaders Walk Their Talk


“Leaders walk their talk,” Warren Bennis once said.  “In true leaders there is no gap between the theories they espouse and their practice,” he continued.  Right now the importance of “leading with practice” can hardly be over emphasized.  Simply put: leaders grow through the ranks by “practicing what they preach.”  In fact, by leading with practice, the preaching is beside the point.

We hear much about leadership theses days. John Maxwell, probably one of the better known authors in the area of leadership says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” So the question must be asked what is a leadership? How do we identify a leader? Is leadership always good? What type of leader should we NOT follow? Am I a leader or do I have leadership potential? Can leadership be developed? These questions will be addressed in future posts.

One definition of leadership is the act or process of leading. Christian leadership demands additional elements. First and foremost is faith in Jesus Christ and having an ever-growing relationship with our Lord. Good leaders must first prove themselves to be good followers. That includes first becoming an obedient follower of Jesus.

In the span of my career I’ve had hundreds of people who reported to me over the years. There have always been those who were anxious to be the boss or get into management who had yet to prove they were good followers. One particular fellow comes to mind. His name was Larry. I was a hard lines merchandise manager in a big box store where my team had elevated the volume of business per square foot to the point that it was all we could do to keep up. Our store had gone from the bottom ranking of sales and profitably per square foot in our district to the top in about two years.

This particular day I had directed Larry to set up a large display in one of the bargain aisles that morning. By midmorning it needed to be dismantled and replaced as the majority of the goods had been sold. I paged Larry and told him the display he set needed changed already. I gave him some direction about what to do with the remainder of the merchandise and what to put in its place. Larry’s response was that he had just barely finished working on getting that display set up and he did not want to go through the work of taking it down and putting a new display in its place again already. This was not the first problem like this I had with Larry. Larry was not a good follower.

I quietly asked Larry again and again he was uncooperative. I asked Larry to come see me and give me his name badge and clock out. He said why? I said because he didn’t work here any more. Since Larry was not willing to follow and this work still needed done that meant I was going to do it and if I was going to do it I no longer needed Larry. “I’ll meet you at the time clock to retrieve your name badge and clock you out.” He said, “You can’t fire me.” I said I already did.

I met Larry again maybe a year or so later. Larry had gotten a job at another company and I ran into him while my wife and I were shopping there. Larry saw me and quickly approached with a big smile on his face and shook my hand. “Mr. McDonald  I want to thank you for firing me. It was the best thing that could have happened to me. If I would have kept on going like I was I wouldn’t be where I am now. I realized I needed to make some changes and when I got a job here I decided to follow your lead and I worked very hard and became a great employee. And guess what? I was promoted and now I am an assistant manager.” Larry learned his lesson and became a good follower which helped chart his course on the way to leadership.

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Dennis McDonald


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