Is it true that all Great Leaders were once Great Followers, and if they were whom did they follow?

“All Great leaders were once great followers!” Wow! What a statement! Now my question to you is… is it true and if it is, whom did they follow?

My husband and I were talking about Leadership the other day and this question came up in our conversation. Now understand that the Word GREAT is the operative word here. We aren’t just talking about those who lead such as teachers, bosses, or the likes of those whom society has slated as “Leaders”, and are, in their own right, but we are talking about “GREAT LEADERS.” Such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Gandhi (etc.). Leaders whose missions have made a great impact or shift in society as a whole!

I must confess, I told my husband, that I found it hard to follow others as I have seen so many others in my life doing so effortlessly. It’s not that I think I’m better than them or that I’m just a rebel without a cause, it’s just that in my eyes there’s a fine line between following man and idolatry and I personally believe we all can unconsciously fall into the latter if we aren’t cognizant of it!

I’ve been taught through scriptures such as Psalms 146:3, Psalms 118:8-9, and others like it, not to put my trust in man, but to only put my trust in Christ, because they cannot give me salvation!

One of the most notable passages of scripture on this subject is Matthew 23, which teaches us that as humans we all have faults, and sometimes when others begin to follow us we can acquire an ego that leads us to thinking we are God, and that we have all the answers. I personally don’t think most people try to acquire this type of thinking, but it can come with the territory when others begin to put their trust in you the way they should be putting their trust in Christ!

Another confession, I have wanted to follow others for the sake of belonging and that feeling of unity and I, just as others in life, have wanted others to follow me in my beliefs and convictions, and I’ve found myself in the past judging others when they didn’t follow my thoughts and beliefs. But I find the older I get, the more I realize I don’t actually want anyone following me. First of all I’m not perfect and I don’t want anyone following me, because I do (and will continue) to fall short of God’s glory; and secondly if you follow me that means you aren’t following Christ in totality. Yes, you can look to me as an example of Christ, but I am not Christ Himself and thirdly, it’s just too tiring to have others constantly follow you, and I, (being transparent) am more of an introvert, (not in totality) loner and thinker and personally, people drain me!  

I have also found that because I can’t follow man in totality, I only call on others for a listening ear, for agreement in prayer, for accountability and for human connectivity; and viewing man in this light also helps me to love others unconditionally because I don’t see them as gods who will not fall or make mistakes, but as humans who are in need, just as I am, who also need to look to Christ for True Restoration!!!

I’ve had great men and women in my life, who’ve sown great words of wisdom, advice and examples for me to follow. I’ve never had a problem taking their advice and interweaving them into my own life, (from my grandmother, mother, father, Pastors and even iconic figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. etc.) but even with their great perils of wisdom and impeccable character, it’s just a no brainer to me that even they have areas of their lives that the Bible would categorize as sin, thus making them imperfect, human, embodying areas of fault, and in need of Christ’s redemptive blood to be righteous before God!

When I think about Great Leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Sojourner Truth, and other of their like, who did they really follow? Yes, I’m sure they probably followed the advice of their mothers and fathers and others in their circle of life, but wasn't it more of their passion, their drive, their determination, their persistence and their obedient heart to bring to life at all costs, the dream or vision that God placed in them that persuaded others to follow them?

Gal 2:20 “Christ lives in me,,,,” Colossians 2:10 “I am complete in Christ,…” and other scriptures such as these, justifies that Christ lives in me and He speaks to me the same way He speaks to everyone else who believes in Him; thus telling me that I too am capable of carrying out great dreams, capable of accomplishing extraordinary things in life and capable of leading just based on the fact that He now lives in me and He speaks to me, all I have to do is listen to His voice and obey His commands when He prompts!

Trust me when I say, I’m not against following leaders, and I definitely don’t think everyone is a leader therefore calling for the need of followers. I also know there are great institutions out there that have benefited from the Leader/follower concept, the military being one; but I also know that we must beware and vigilant of making idols and Gods of man, because the shift can be slight, and it can deceitful and deceivingly subtle. I truly believe we are to look to those who are more mature in Christ, such as Pastors, Ministers, etc. for guidance, but I am also a big believer that once we truly accept Christ in our hearts and keep our minds stayed on Him the way He commands us to do, that we too will grow in our maturity, we too will begin to discern the voice of God, we too will begin to receive revelation from God, and we too will begin to know when God is prompting us to do something or not!

So the question remains are “Great Leaders” great followers or are they just great visionaries who have the art of influence and who’ve been given extraordinary tasks of being great humanitarians who have the passion, the persistence, the determination the resilience and the obedient heart needed to fulfill those great visions,… and if they have been great followers, who besides Christ have they really followed? Remember you can always follow man to great heights in life, but never, and I say never think so highly of man that you forget that it’s Christ that gives you daily Love, Grace, Mercy and most of all Salvation; Psalms 146:3 “Put not your trust in princes, (or) in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation,”!

Love, Kisses and Teacups
Always In His Grace,
Toinette Neube