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I Am a Follower #2 : Leadership Models (part 3)

Leonard I. SWEET, I Am a Follower
Leonard I. SWEET, I Am a Follower

Leadership studies influences

Sweet uses the support of followership literature. The most developed theory of lead-followership seems to be indebted to Rusty Ricketson work . But he makes some references to other works. Sweet’s book sadly does not go into enough details. One needs to remind himself that the point of the book was mainly to re-think (criticize) the philosophy behind leadership theories and propose a followership identity pattern fitting more adequately the views of Scriptures.

Situational approach

Sweet does not sufficiently develop the relationship between first-follower and another follower, in the case of mentoring, to show the interaction with this model. However, it is clearly possible to think of task and relational behavior helping the other follower grow if both coach and coached have in mind that they are seeking the will of the True leader: Jesus.

LMX theory

If LMX theory is about having high quality relationship with everybody in order to maximize effectiveness, it could certainly apply to the first-followership model. Sweet would talk about harmony, trust and authenticity to qualify the relationship while LMX would define these relationships as high quality. Sweet would contend that first followers teach but also learn from other followers while LMX would define this influence as reciprocal. For Sweet the interest is to produce followers who will grow in the way, truth and life while LMX theory considers it a group interest.


When acquainted with the purpose of Sweet, we can find criteria defining a first-followership model (of leadership). It is pretty obvious that Sweet would hate us creating a model of leadership from his work, but for the purpose of this critical review if one mixes the definitions of leadership literature and Sweet’s argument we can conclude that a leader is to be a genuine follower of the Way, the Truth and the Life: A follower of Jesus-Christ. This act of following will produce genuine Spirit-given fruits that other followers will benefit from to enable their journey with Christ. In Sweet’s terms we could say that leading is about following. This approach can be challenged because at the end of the day it seems to say: you just have to be a genuine follower and all these things (Spirit-given characteristics) will happen and people will follow Christ. The reader not convinced by the “simplicity” of this model, one would prefer the study of Ricketson for a more realistic (*) interaction between a first-follower (“following-leader” in Ricketson vocabulary) and other followers that takes more into account the actual life and dynamic of a church and does take into account the sinful nature of man.

(*) Ricketson shows that sometimes the following-leader would find himself following Jesus while others in relationship with him would not. He argues in his article that LMX theory applied in a realistic context could not be compatible with a following-leader model.

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