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Assessing the Constructs of Leader-Follower Theory and the Cultural Context of the Interaction between Jesus, Jewish Elders and the Centurion of Luke 7.

In the opening texture of Luke 7:1 we find Jesus entering Capernaum which is located on the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee. During this time, “the headquarters of the Roman army in Judea was located in Caesarea, on the Mediterranean coast.”[1] Centurions, as in this case, were occasionally assigned to provinces under special assignments. History indicates that Roman centurions were of similar rank to a Captain and “often of the humblest origin; he had been promoted from the ranks simply on account of bravery and military efficiency.”[2] While the Romans ruled over the Jews, the centurion knew that it “would be inappropriate and disrespectful for him to approach Jesus and make a request.”[3] Despite the cultural divide, in verses 2 through 5 we learn that this centurion is well respected by the religious community and is a big donor to the synagogue. Understanding the social station the centurion maintains we are better able to analyze the interaction between Jesus, the Jewish elders, and the centurion.

Leadership is a “process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective.”[4] The centurion under Roman law had the authority to influence those around him by whatever means he chose. “So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant.”[5]

Followership is made of “those individuals towards whom leadership is directed.”[6] The Jewish elders who normally argue with Jesus showed another side as they take on the follower role in their approach to Jesus. As the centurion and Jewish elders work together, we find a leader-follower system at work, which implies that there are “two or more persons working together.”[7] The elders “begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving. For he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.”[8] The centurion and the elders are “relational partners who play complementary roles.”[9] It is through the elders that the centurion, “an officer of an unwelcome Gentile occupying force, approach a Galilean wonderworker”[10] to secure such a favor. “From this perspective, the relationship between leaders and followers becomes reciprocal and interdependent.”[11] The elders do this “for the centurion, adding the character witness that the centurion will be a worthy recipient of favor.”[12] The elders recognize all that the centurion has done for the religious community and the centurion calls in a favor.

Entering the middle texture of the text, Jesus takes on the role of follower when he agrees to go see the centurion. “But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.”[13] We find an interesting dynamic as we compare the texture between verse 3 and verse 6. In verse 3 we see a leader who is “used to issuing commands, the centurion phrased the message bluntly: Come (erchamai) ! Cure! (diasōzō)”[14] Yet, in verse 6 we conversely find a more humble centurion who sends his trusted friends to greet Jesus before he reaches the centurions home. Here the Inner Texture Analysis of Argumentative Texture and Patterns is employed. Argumentative Texture “investigates multiple kinds of inner reasoning in the discourse.”[15] The Argumentative Texture and Pattern between verse 3 and verse 6 help to clarify the centurions understanding of his position by presenting “assertions and supports them with reasons, clarifies them through opposites and contraries, and possibly presents short or elaborate counterarguments.”[16] When the centurion’s friends approach Jesus they “called Jesus kurios, a Greek word that can mean ‘sir,’ ‘lord over the servants,’ or ‘Lord over heaven and earth.”[17] The centurion, now through his friends, maintains a follower’s role through “his great humility, and being conscious to himself of his unworthiness to have such a person under his roof.”[18] “Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.”[19] The centurion simply asks Jesus to delegate His authority so that his servant is healed. The centurion knows that great authority does not have to be present for action to be taken. “Just as this officer did not need to be present to have his orders carried out, so Jesus didn’t need to be present to heal.”[20]

In verse 8 the centurion explains leader-follower theory. “For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”[21] He had the clear understanding that under his superiors he was a follower, yet also a leader over his soldiers. By this the centurion was familiar with “all the principles of obedience.”[22] The centurion would have also acknowledged Jewish laws and customs that “it was not lawful for a Jew to go into the house of an uncircumcised Gentile.”[23] The centurion understood that Jesus was a man of great authority and that a “person in authority has the power to delegate authority to accomplish his purpose.”[24] In a contemporary setting a manager would delegate authority to her staff to accomplish goals and objectives. The manager expects the staff to take on a leader role to accomplish those tasks. Each person in the process “is acting on orders both laterally and from above. And with the responsibility to fulfill the order also comes the authority to accomplish it by whatever authorized means are necessary.”[25] As the centurion recognized Jesus’ authority to act from a distance, contemporary leaders need not always be present for delegation of authority to take place. Tools such as email, telephone, verbal directives, memorandums, and letters can all be used to delegate authority to accomplish organization goals. Additionally the chain of command is a powerful line for delegation. The board of directors as leaders charge the company CEO as the leader/follower to action, the CEO as leader passes the authority to a regional Vice-President and so forth.

The closing texture of text presents a centurion who views Jesus as much a leader as himself. We note that leadership is “not so much about position, but about their ability to influence through behaviors and self-concepts.”[26] “The centurion’s insight is that Jesus’ delegated word of authority can span distance. He has power in the spirit world to speak a word and his word is accomplished.”[27] The story of the centurion illustrates that “leadership and followership are traits in which, at any one time, leaders assume followers’ role and followers assume leadership roles.”[28] From this we know that the “combination of two or more persons working together implies the leader-follower scheme exists”.[29] Luke 7 further illustrates the need to consider cultural context in which the leader-followers operate. In Luke 7 we find a leader who has great authority to do as he pleases, yet understands the cultural significance of a Jewish leader entering his home.

Much can be learned from the humble centurion and the leader-follower theory presented in his story. The leader-follower model presented is an excellent illustration of contemporary manager as leader-follower and is transferrable across organizational and cultural lines. The Gentile was leader of the Jews yet became a follower of the Jews. Likewise, the Jews were following the Gentile but also lead over him. With respect to cultural differences, the centurion was able to effectively lead and follow without having to give up his authority. Jesus and the Jewish elders were able to lead and follow without having to break from Jewish law or their respective roles.


Notes

[1]. Bible History, “Roman Centurion.” http://www.bible-history.com/sketches/ancient/roman-centurion.html (accessed June 16, 2010)

[2]. Roman Colosseum, “The Role of the Roman Centurion.” http://www.roman-colosseum.info/roman-army/roman-centurion.html (accessed June 16, 2010)

[3]. Mark Driscoll, “Luke’s Gospel: Investigating the Man Who is God Part 26: Jesus Heals the Centurion’s Servant Luke 7:1-10” (Mars Hill Church, May 2, 2010).

[4]. Peter G. Northouse, Leadership, Theory and Practice, 2nd Edition. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 2001), 3.

[5]. Luke 7:3 (New King James Version)

[6]. Northouse, 3

[7]. John Pitron, “Followership is Leadership: The Leadership-Exemplary Followership Exchange Model.” Version 8. Knol. (August 16, 2008). http://knol.google.com/k/dr-john-pitron/followership-is-leadership/12nb17zejmb1w/2 (accessed May 16, 2010)

[8]. Luke 7:4-5 (New King James Version)

[9]. Michael Z. Hackman and Craig E. Johnson, Leadership A Communication Perspective. (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc. 2000), 17.

[10]. David A. DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 336.

[11]. Gilbert and Matviuk, “Empirical Research: The Symbiotic Nature of the Leader-Follower Relationship and it’s Impact on Organizational Effectiveness.” Academic Leadership.The Online Journal. Vol 6: Iss 4 (Oct 9, 2008) http://www.academicleadership.org/emprical_research/The_Symbiotic_Nature_of_the_Leader-Follower_relationship_and_Its_Impact_on_Organizational_Effectiveness_printer.shtml (accessed June 20, 2010)

[12]. DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament, 336.

[13]. Luke 7:6 (New King James Version)

[14]. Trent C Butler, Holman New Testament Commentary on Luke. (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2000), 104.

[15]. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts. A Guide to Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation. (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996), 21.

[16]. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts, 21

[17]. Butler, Holman New Testament Commentary on Luke, 104

[18]. Commentary on Luke 7:6 http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/luke-7-6.html (accessed June 15, 2010)

[19]. Luke 7:7 (New King James Version)

[20]. New American Standard Bible, “Life Application Study Bible.” (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 1752.

[21]. Luke 7:8 (New King James Version)

[22]. The Four Fold Gospel – Healing the Centurions Servant. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/the-fourfold-gospel/by-sections/healing-the-centurions-servant.html (accessed June 15, 2010)

[23]. Commentary on Luke 7:6. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/luke-7-6.html (accessed June 15, 2010)

[24]. Ralph F. Wilson, A Man with Authority (Luke 7:1-10). http://www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/7_1-10.htm (accessed June 15, 2010).

[25]. Wilson,”A Man with Authority (Luke 7:1-10)”

[26]. Gilbert and Matviuk, “Empirical Research: The Symbiotic Nature of the Leader-Follower Relationship and it’s Impact on Organizational Effectiveness.”

[27]. Wilson,”A Man with Authority (Luke 7:1-10)”

[28]. Gilbert and Matviuk, “Empirical Research: The Symbiotic Nature of the Leader-Follower Relationship and it’s Impact on Organizational Effectiveness.”

[29]. Pitron, “Followership is Leadership: he Leadership-Exemplary Followership Exchange Model.”

Bibliography

Bible History. Roman Centurion. http://www.bible-history.com/sketches/ancient/roman- centurion.html (accessed June 16,2010).

Butler, Trent C. Holman New Testament Commentary on Luke. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2000.

“Commentary on Luke 7:6” Bible Study Tools. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/luke-7-6.html (accessed June 15, 2010).

DeSilva, David A. An Introduction to the New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Driscoll, Mark. “Sermon on Luke’s Gospel: Investigating the Man Who is God Part 26: Jesus Heals the Centurion’s Servant.” May 2, 2010.

Gilbert and Matviuk. “Empirical Research: The Symbiotic Nature of the Leader-Follower Relationship and It’s Impact on Organizational Effectiveness.” Academic Leadership. The Online Journal. Vol 6: Iss 4 (October 9, 2008). http://www.academicleadership.org/emprical_research/The_Symbiotic_Nature_of_the_Leadership-Follower_relationship_and_its_impact_on_Organizational_Effectiveness_printer.html (accessed June 20, 2010).

Hackman, Michael Z. and Craig E. Johnson. Leadership A Communication Perspective. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc., 2000.

Holy Bible: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988.

Northouse, Peter. Leadership, Theory and Practice, 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 2001.

Pitron, John. “Followership is Leadership: The Leadership-Exemplary Followership Exchange Model.” Version 8. (August 16, 2008). http://knol.google.com/k/dr-john-pitron/followership-is-leadership/12nb17zejmb1w/2 (accessed May 16, 2010).

Robbins, Vernon K. Exploring the Texture of Texts. A Guide to Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996.

Roman Colosseum. The Role of the Roman Centurion. http://www.roman-colosseum.info/roman-arm/roman-centurion.html (accessed on June 16, 2010).

“The Four-Fold Gospel – Healing the Centurions Servant.” Bible Study Tools. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/the-fourfold-gospel/be-sections/healing-the-centurions-servant.html (accessed June 15, 2010).

Wilson, Ralph F. A Man with Authority (Luke 7:1-10). http://www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/7_1-10.htm (accessed June 15, 2010).

——————–

Philip A Foster, MA is a professional life and leadership coach with Maximum Change Inc.
He works with leaders to develop their purpose, life balance and achieve greater success. Encouraging leaders to take active and consistent steps toward reaching goals and objectives. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Skype: philip.a.foster | (615) 216-5667

Assessing the Constructs of Leader-Follower Theory and the Cultural Context of

the Interaction between Jesus, Jewish Elders and the Centurion of Luke 7.

Philip A. Foster

425 N Thompson Lane, No 71

Murfreesboro TN, 37129

615-216-5667 phone

615-216-0552 fax

philip@maximumchange.com

LDSL 701

Dr. Gary Oster

June 27, 2010

Abstract

This paper explores the constructs of leader-follower theory through the interaction between Jesus, Jewish elders and the centurion as found in Luke 7:1-10. Through the use of Inner Texture Analysis of Socio-Rhetorical Criticism, the cultural context of interaction between Jews and Gentiles and its contemporary application to the leader-follower model are presented. This study employs the use of argumentative and open-middle-closing textures and patterns of Inner Texture Analysis. Though culturally the centurion was a governmental hēgemōn and could demand by any means necessary anything of anyone, he acknowledges cultural attributes and the authority of Jesus. The centurion demonstrates the traits of a follower as he seeks healing for his servant. Further the symbiotic nature of the leader-follower is present, not just between Jesus and the centurion but also with the Jewish elders as they approach Jesus on behalf of the centurion despite their ongoing conflict with His teachings. We will find that the application of leader-follower theory, as represented in this story, is applicable to present day interactions between leaders and followers of differing levels of authority and cultural affiliation.


In the opening texture of Luke 7:1 we find Jesus entering Capernaum which is located on the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee. During this time, “the headquarters of the Roman army in Judea was located in Caesarea, on the Mediterranean coast.”[1] Centurions, as in this case, were occasionally assigned to provinces under special assignments. History indicates that Roman centurions were of similar rank to a Captain and “often of the humblest origin; he had been promoted from the ranks simply on account of bravery and military efficiency.”[2] While the Romans ruled over the Jews, the centurion knew that it “would be inappropriate and disrespectful for him to approach Jesus and make a request.”[3] Despite the cultural divide, in verses 2 through 5 we learn that this centurion is well respected by the religious community and is a big donor to the synagogue. Understanding the social station the centurion maintains we are better able to analyze the interaction between Jesus, the Jewish elders, and the centurion.

Leadership is a “process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective.”[4] The centurion under Roman law had the authority to influence those around him by whatever means he chose. “So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant.”[5]

Followership is made of “those individuals towards whom leadership is directed.”[6] The Jewish elders who normally argue with Jesus showed another side as they take on the follower role in their approach to Jesus. As the centurion and Jewish elders work together, we find a leader-follower system at work, which implies that there are “two or more persons working together.”[7] The elders “begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving. For he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.”[8] The centurion and the elders are “relational partners who play complementary roles.”[9] It is through the elders that the centurion, “an officer of an unwelcome Gentile occupying force, approach a Galilean wonderworker”[10] to secure such a favor. “From this perspective, the relationship between leaders and followers becomes reciprocal and interdependent.”[11] The elders do this “for the centurion, adding the character witness that the centurion will be a worthy recipient of favor.”[12] The elders recognize all that the centurion has done for the religious community and the centurion calls in a favor.

Entering the middle texture of the text, Jesus takes on the role of follower when he agrees to go see the centurion. “But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, “Lord, don’t trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.”[13] We find an interesting dynamic as we compare the texture between verse 3 and verse 6. In verse 3 we see a leader who is “used to issuing commands, the centurion phrased the message bluntly: Come (erchamai) ! Cure! (diasōzō)”[14] Yet, in verse 6 we conversely find a more humble centurion who sends his trusted friends to greet Jesus before he reaches the centurions home. Here the Inner Texture Analysis of Argumentative Texture and Patterns is employed. Argumentative Texture “investigates multiple kinds of inner reasoning in the discourse.”[15] The Argumentative Texture and Pattern between verse 3 and verse 6 help to clarify the centurions understanding of his position by presenting “assertions and supports them with reasons, clarifies them through opposites and contraries, and possibly presents short or elaborate counterarguments.”[16] When the centurion’s friends approach Jesus they “called Jesus kurios, a Greek word that can mean ‘sir,’ ‘lord over the servants,’ or ‘Lord over heaven and earth.”[17] The centurion, now through his friends, maintains a follower’s role through “his great humility, and being conscious to himself of his unworthiness to have such a person under his roof.”[18] Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed.”[19] The centurion simply asks Jesus to delegate His authority so that his servant is healed. The centurion knows that great authority does not have to be present for action to be taken. “Just as this officer did not need to be present to have his orders carried out, so Jesus didn’t need to be present to heal.”[20]

In verse 8 the centurion explains leader-follower theory. “For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”[21] He had the clear understanding that under his superiors he was a follower, yet also a leader over his soldiers. By this the centurion was familiar with “all the principles of obedience.”[22] The centurion would have also acknowledged Jewish laws and customs that “it was not lawful for a Jew to go into the house of an uncircumcised Gentile.”[23] The centurion understood that Jesus was a man of great authority and that a “person in authority has the power to delegate authority to accomplish his purpose.”[24] In a contemporary setting a manager would delegate authority to her staff to accomplish goals and objectives. The manager expects the staff to take on a leader role to accomplish those tasks. Each person in the process “is acting on orders both laterally and from above. And with the responsibility to fulfill the order also comes the authority to accomplish it by whatever authorized means are necessary.”[25] As the centurion recognized Jesus’ authority to act from a distance, contemporary leaders need not always be present for delegation of authority to take place. Tools such as email, telephone, verbal directives, memorandums, and letters can all be used to delegate authority to accomplish organization goals. Additionally the chain of command is a powerful line for delegation. The board of directors as leaders charge the company CEO as the leader/follower to action, the CEO as leader passes the authority to a regional Vice-President and so forth.

The closing texture of text presents a centurion who views Jesus as much a leader as himself. We note that leadership is “not so much about position, but about their ability to influence through behaviors and self-concepts.”[26] “The centurion’s insight is that Jesus’ delegated word of authority can span distance. He has power in the spirit world to speak a word and his word is accomplished.”[27] The story of the centurion illustrates that “leadership and followership are traits in which, at any one time, leaders assume followers’ role and followers assume leadership roles.”[28] From this we know that the “combination of two or more persons working together implies the leader-follower scheme exists”.[29] Luke 7 further illustrates the need to consider cultural context in which the leader-followers operate. In Luke 7 we find a leader who has great authority to do as he pleases, yet understands the cultural significance of a Jewish leader entering his home.

Much can be learned from the humble centurion and the leader-follower theory presented in his story. The leader-follower model presented is an excellent illustration of contemporary manager as leader-follower and is transferrable across organizational and cultural lines. The Gentile was leader of the Jews yet became a follower of the Jews. Likewise, the Jews were following the Gentile but also lead over him. With respect to cultural differences, the centurion was able to effectively lead and follow without having to give up his authority. Jesus and the Jewish elders were able to lead and follow without having to break from Jewish law or their respective roles.



Notes

[1]. Bible History, “Roman Centurion.” http://www.bible-history.com/sketches/ancient/roman-centurion.html (accessed June 16, 2010)

[2]. Roman Colosseum, “The Role of the Roman Centurion.” http://www.roman-colosseum.info/roman-army/roman-centurion.html (accessed June 16, 2010)

[3]. Mark Driscoll, “Luke’s Gospel: Investigating the Man Who is God Part 26: Jesus Heals the Centurion’s Servant Luke 7:1-10” (Mars Hill Church, May 2, 2010).

[4]. Peter G. Northouse, Leadership, Theory and Practice, 2nd Edition. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 2001), 3.

[5]. Luke 7:3 (New King James Version)

[6]. Northouse, 3

[7]. John Pitron, “Followership is Leadership: The Leadership-Exemplary Followership Exchange Model.” Version 8. Knol. (August 16, 2008). http://knol.google.com/k/dr-john-pitron/followership-is-leadership/12nb17zejmb1w/2 (accessed May 16, 2010)

[8]. Luke 7:4-5 (New King James Version)

[9]. Michael Z. Hackman and Craig E. Johnson, Leadership A Communication Perspective. (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc. 2000), 17.

[10]. David A. DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 336.

[11]. Gilbert and Matviuk, “Empirical Research: The Symbiotic Nature of the Leader-Follower Relationship and it’s Impact on Organizational Effectiveness.” Academic Leadership.The Online Journal. Vol 6: Iss 4 (Oct 9, 2008) http://www.academicleadership.org/emprical_research/The_Symbiotic_Nature_of_the_Leader-Follower_relationship_and_Its_Impact_on_Organizational_Effectiveness_printer.shtml (accessed June 20, 2010)

[12]. DeSilva, An Introduction to the New Testament, 336.

[13]. Luke 7:6 (New King James Version)

[14]. Trent C Butler, Holman New Testament Commentary on Luke. (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2000), 104.

[15]. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts. A Guide to Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation. (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996), 21.

[16]. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts, 21

[17]. Butler, Holman New Testament Commentary on Luke, 104

[19]. Luke 7:7 (New King James Version)

[20]. New American Standard Bible, “Life Application Study Bible.” (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 1752.

[21]. Luke 7:8 (New King James Version)

[22]. The Four Fold Gospel – Healing the Centurions Servant. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/the-fourfold-gospel/by-sections/healing-the-centurions-servant.html (accessed June 15, 2010)

[24]. Ralph F. Wilson, A Man with Authority (Luke 7:1-10). http://www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/7_1-10.htm (accessed June 15, 2010).

[25]. Wilson,”A Man with Authority (Luke 7:1-10)”

[26]. Gilbert and Matviuk, “Empirical Research: The Symbiotic Nature of the Leader-Follower Relationship and it’s Impact on Organizational Effectiveness.”

[27]. Wilson,”A Man with Authority (Luke 7:1-10)”

[28]. Gilbert and Matviuk, “Empirical Research: The Symbiotic Nature of the Leader-Follower Relationship and it’s Impact on Organizational Effectiveness.”

[29]. Pitron, “Followership is Leadership: he Leadership-Exemplary Followership Exchange Model.”

Bibliography

Bible History. Roman Centurion. http://www.bible-history.com/sketches/ancient/roman- centurion.html (accessed June 16,2010).

Butler, Trent C. Holman New Testament Commentary on Luke. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2000.

“Commentary on Luke 7:6” Bible Study Tools. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/luke-7-6.html (accessed June 15, 2010).

DeSilva, David A. An Introduction to the New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Driscoll, Mark. “Sermon on Luke’s Gospel: Investigating the Man Who is God Part 26: Jesus Heals the Centurion’s Servant.” May 2, 2010.

Gilbert and Matviuk. “Empirical Research: The Symbiotic Nature of the Leader-Follower Relationship and It’s Impact on Organizational Effectiveness.” Academic Leadership. The Online Journal. Vol 6: Iss 4 (October 9, 2008). http://www.academicleadership.org/emprical_research/The_Symbiotic_Nature_of_the_Leadership-Follower_relationship_and_its_impact_on_Organizational_Effectiveness_printer.html (accessed June 20, 2010).

Hackman, Michael Z. and Craig E. Johnson. Leadership A Communication Perspective. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc., 2000.

Holy Bible: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988.

Northouse, Peter. Leadership, Theory and Practice, 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 2001.

Pitron, John. “Followership is Leadership: The Leadership-Exemplary Followership Exchange Model.” Version 8. (August 16, 2008). http://knol.google.com/k/dr-john-pitron/followership-is-leadership/12nb17zejmb1w/2 (accessed May 16, 2010).

Robbins, Vernon K. Exploring the Texture of Texts. A Guide to Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996.

Roman Colosseum. The Role of the Roman Centurion. http://www.roman-colosseum.info/roman-arm/roman-centurion.html (accessed on June 16, 2010).

“The Four-Fold Gospel – Healing the Centurions Servant.” Bible Study Tools. http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/the-fourfold-gospel/be-sections/healing-the-centurions-servant.html (accessed June 15, 2010).

Wilson, Ralph F. A Man with Authority (Luke 7:1-10). http://www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/7_1-10.htm (accessed June 15, 2010).

Reverse Mentoring and the Leader-Follower Theory

It is Monday morning; you are hard at work and an email arrives from your boss informing you that the company will start embracing new technologies in an effort to stay competitive. Reviewing the list of proposed technologies, you suddenly realize that you are not as tech-savvy as you once thought you were. Equally daunting is that you are now in charge of making sure that the employees are trained on these new emerging technologies with no money in your budget to pay for training.

Managers and small business owners are facing the reality that they are increasingly out of touch with modern technology and the related lexicon of the under-35 crowd. Navigating through the rapidly changing world of blogs, podcasts, social networking, tablet computers, smart phones and other technologies can be like learning a foreign language. Equally frustrating is the fact that most leaders have little time or resources for specific training on the ever-advancing technologies and ideas. As leaders increasingly face these challenges, one emerging solution to this quandary is that of reverse mentoring.

Reverse mentoring is simply the process of pairing more senior employees with younger employees in an effort to help the senior staff gain insight into the emerging technologies, mindsets and ideas. Traditionally, mentoring has been seen as a one-way street where a more knowledgeable and sometimes more senior individual passes an experience on to a subordinate or younger individual for the purpose of learning. According to Chip Bell, the author of Managers as Mentors, mentoring is no more than the process of helping someone learn something that they did not already know and in a much faster format than if they had to learn it on their own. Mentoring unto itself is defined as a trusted advisor, coach or even a wise teacher. Reverse mentoring takes the concept of mentoring and turns it on end affording more senior managers first-hand experience from a younger perspective. Before you judge the idea of reverse mentoring and its value, stop and think about how many times a day we actually use this concept. Have you ever asked a child how to use a DVD player, iPod, the computer or a software program? I would venture to guess that there are more people who have used this form of mentoring than care to admit. If you can ask a seven year old how to turn on the HDTV and Blue Ray DVD, then why not ask a 20 or 30-something who is much more tech-savvy to help you learn something you don’t already know?

Benefits of Reverse Mentoring

There are many benefits to reverse mentoring within an organization. From an economic perspective, it serves as a cost effective way to improve the staff’s technology skills. The simple idea of using the resources you already have within the organization is just smart business sense. Why go outside the organization and pay for a high priced consultant or trainer when a subordinate might be the most sensible answer?

Reverse mentoring engages an organization in an open dialogue. It encourages the flow of information and ideas at all levels of the organization. It helps more senior leaders to understand not only technology but also how younger individuals think and use technology in their lives. When an organization can see through the eyes of their younger staff, they open up a greater understanding of what the possibilities are for the future. Reverse mentoring builds the ultimate learning opportunities for both the mentee and the mentor. Through effective mentoring, the mentee can then become the mentor to someone else regardless of their leadership status.

Barriers to Effective Reverse Mentoring

New concepts are not without their barriers. There are several barriers to the effective use of reverse mentoring, such as ego, corporate environment, and archaic management styles. The most effective way to utilize reverse mentoring and avoid such barriers is to first understand the leader-follower theory. The leader-follower theory is a concept where at any given time a leader becomes a follower and the follower the leader. Then the leader and follower return to their original roles. At no time does the leader lose authority but simply turns to someone who is more capable of a specific task. Much like how delegation of authority works, a leader delegates to a subordinate to teach or mentor them in a specific area that the subordinate is knowledgeable in. This role reversal recognizes that at any given time that a follower might have something to contribute to the organization that makes them a leader of the moment. Such an example would be that of reverse mentoring where a younger, less seasoned staff member holds a skill or knowledge base that would benefit the more senior staff member. The key: don’t let your ego get ahead of you. This advice is great for not only the mentee but also the mentor. For the mentor it can be an awkward position to be in to teach your boss something that they don’t know. Setting an ego aside and saying, “I don’t know it all” is helpful to the process. Equally as helpful is when the mentor understands their role is temporary, yet builds a rapport with their more senior counterparts.

Rules of Engagement

While reverse mentoring has traditionally formed informally over time, effective reverse mentoring should begin with a plan. It is important to articulate expectations from both the mentee and the mentor. There must be mutually accepted rules of engagement set forth. These rules can cover everything from the time and location that the mentoring is to take place to whom will take the lead on projects, provide feedback, and how is it determined that the needs and desires of the mentoring agreement have been met. Finally, there must be a genuine desire to learn from each other. If there is no cooperation in this process it will be less than effective. There must be trust in each other and a full level of transparency that there are no hidden agendas.

Conclusion

As technology continues to rapidly change, the need for more creative learning processes will grow. Reverse mentoring is a powerful and cost effective solution to this challenge. Utilizing the skills within your organization can help you increase your competitive edge within your industry. Set the ego aside, look at the staff around you, determine their abilities, and then develop a plan to utilize reverse mentoring that will ultimately benefit the entire organization. The senior staff will have a greater opportunity to gain knowledge, not just on the subject of technology, but on the subordinates as well as social trends and norms. As a result, the subordinate staff will feel more appreciated and in turn likely become greater assets to the organization. If done right, reverse mentoring can be extremely rewarding for all that are involved in this powerful cost effective process. Reverse mentoring may be the most important step an organization takes in their effort to remain competitive in an increasingly fast-paced technological world.

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Philip A Foster, MA is a professional life and leadership coach with Maximum Change Inc.
He works with leaders to develop their purpose, life balance and achieve greater success. Encouraging leaders to take active and consistent steps toward reaching goals and objectives. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.

Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog | Skype: philip.a.foster | (615) 216-5667

Categories: Leadership, Maximum Change