the words of tim walker

follow the leader

leader—it’s such a coveted word. everyone wants to be a leader.
when you are younger, the word is intoxicating.
being a leader means having power, being accepted, admired.
it means getting to determine the direction, the course, not only for you but others.
it means being noticed.

some dive headlong into leadership opportunities.
some wait it out hoping for that “some day.”
others end up leading by default.
but it’s a secret desire of many.

i’ve been on both sides—wanted to lead. got to lead.
after college, i faced the reality of most starry-eyed twenty-somethings with a degree in hand—you start at the bottom.
and after working for about six years or so, i finally landed the job of my dreams—editor of a Christian magazine for teens.

after the initial shock of “what am i supposed to do?” and “when are they going to find out that i don’t know what i’m doing?” i got the hang of it.
in fact, i not only knew how to do the job, i dreamed about how i could do it better.
and not only did i dream about making it better, i made those dreams a reality with some really great people supporting me.
i did that for 10 years.

then i left there and led a team putting together a student curriculum.
it involved more implementing someone else’s vision, less of my own, but i still was building something from the ground up.
i did that for five years.

and all those leadership moments fed something in me. i feasted on the creativity, the recognition. my initiative grew.
when i saw something that needed to be done, i stepped up and did it.

but here’s something that few people speak of—leadership is seasonal.
sometimes leaders go through seasons when they don’t lead—either by personal choice, or by others.

sometimes God has other plans for you.
when you think you’ve arrived, you are a “leader,” there will come seasons when you’re not.
just when you think those “somedays” are in the past, that you’ve gained enough experience to always be considered a leader, to always be in charge, things will change.
especially as you get older.
sometimes leaders have seasons when they become followers.
and that’s where i’ve been for the past two years.

when that happens, it will mess with your head and your heart.
because leading is intoxicating.
it seeps into your pores and becomes a part of who you are.
it latches on to your identity.

but when it’s gone, you will mourn its loss.
you will wonder when you’ll get another chance to lead.
and the illusion of leadership will fade—because being a “leader” is a season, a moment.

in some seasons, sometimes you’re not meant to lead where you are.
sometimes you just have to follow.
and the mix of emotions is hard.
you’ll wonder if it will ever happen again.
you’ll wonder if there’s something wrong with you.

but you’re not meant to lead everywhere you are.
sometimes even chiefs have to be indians.

leading is a season.
it’s not an identity.
it’s not part of who you are.
it’s what you get to do.

because we all were meant to be followers—followers of Jesus Christ.
sometimes we simply get to lead others in that process.


the contents on this site are ©2013 tim walker. all rights reserved. for permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.


image courtesy of flickr.com/creative commons/by Chris Kealy

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3 thoughts on “follow the leader

  1. dude…this may be only for me this morning. I just finished reading Phil Vischer’s book, “Me, Myself, and Bob” He dealt with the same topic. One of my favorite things from the book is why he picked a jellyfish for the logo of his new company. A jellyfish can’t go anywhere on its own. It is at the mercy of the currents to take it where it goes. We should be like that with God. Letting Him lead and guide….even in our seasons of leadership. Thanks for your wisdom.

  2. Interesting perspective. Even more intriguing because I totally consider you, where you are right now, a leader. Yes, you’re following someone else’s agenda. But, you always lead – you lead by example.

    Thanks for this post. Very thought provoking.

    1. thanks, kathy. like all my blog posts, this is from personal experience. but if i look around me and see friends and colleagues who in their 40s and 50s who once lead teams or projects, and who are struggling to follow another leader and miss being a chief, i felt like there were some things that were just not being said. that’s it hard. that it’s a struggle. and while i do think everyone leads in some way or another, ultimately we are all followers.

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