A few years ago I read a very insightful and extremely helpful book which sits on my bookshelf among a handful of books (about 10) that I call “Must Reads” for leaders. 

The book is titled “The Courageous Follower: Standing Up To and For Our Leaders,” by Ira Chaleff.

The courageous follower

Here is a snippet from the book to whet your appetite:

“Courageous followers value organizational harmony and their relationship with the leader, but not at the expense of the common purpose and their integrity. We work together with mutual respect and honesty to achieve our common purpose. Followers and leaders both orbit around the purpose; followers do not orbit around the leader. A central dichotomy of courageous followership is the need to energetically perform two opposite roles: implementer and challenger of the leader’s ideas.”

Chaleff is really onto something with this book which can significantly hurt any group, church or organization when loyalty to the leader is a must at all costs.

Some leaders are so insecure that any form of disloyalty to their ideas or desires is seen as disrespect and grounds for removal from the team or organization. You don’t have to be brilliant to see where this can lead, and has led, in some churches and Christian organizations over the years. I speak from personal experience.

Following is a quote from Devlin Barrett, a reporter in Washington, D.C. which we have all heard or read about, which demonstrates the problems which can ensue when loyalty is expected and demanded at any price; and there is a price to pay.

 “Fired FBI director James B. Comey said President Trump told him at the White House “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty” during their private dinner conversation in January, according to written remarks from Comey offering a vivid preview of his testimony Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“In seven remarkable pages of prepared testimony, Comey describes a president obsessed with loyalty and publicly clearing his name amid an FBI investigation of his associates, and the FBI director’s growing unease with the nature of the demands being made of him in their private conversations.”

My point in sharing this is not to defend or accuse our former president nor speak of his innocence or guilt in all of this, but to simply illustrate how demanding loyalty can get us in a heap of trouble which, in this case, it has!

There is a time for being loyal and a time for being disloyal when something of greater value is at stake

Loyalty to the leader’s wishes takes a back seat in Christian leadership when loyalty to the following would need to be comprised or disregarded:

  • The gospel of Jesus Christ
  • The clear and undeniable teaching of the Bible
  • The organization’s stated and agreed-upon Purpose
  • The organization’s stated and agreed-upon Values
  • The organization’s stated and agreed-upon Vision
  • The organization’s stated and agreed-upon culture and philosophy

For Christian leaders, loyalty to the Bible, the gospel and the purpose, values and vision of the organization in which they serve is more important than loyalty to an individual leader.

When the leader is in step with what we absolutely need to be loyal to, we stand up for that leader. When the leader is not, we need to be courageous followers and stand up to that leader and advocate for a greater value. 

This obviously requires lots of courage, grace and wisdom to know when to stand up for or stand up to the leader.

May the Lord of heaven and earth grant us that wisdom so we can honor him!