Significance: From Potential to Participation

In our exploration of followership, we have oftentimes addressed the aspect of identity: followership is not merely an occupation, but a deeper part of who we are and what we have to offer.

Having a firm grasp on one’s identity is extremely valuable; being able to clearly answer the question “Who am I?” provides an important resource for participating with excellence and making your necessary contributions.

But there is an additional question to address. We might be able to talk about who we are, but then we (or others) may naturally ask: so what? Does the world really need me? Is there any value to me being me?

Am I significant? Where does my significance come from?

Everyone is valuable. All human beings possess an inherent dignity and worth–something that the Christian worldview expresses when it affirms that all people are “made in the image of God” and when t-shirts and bumper stickers proclaim, “God don’t make no junk.”

But significance is slightly different from value. There are many pieces of art that are expensive, but not all of those have had the same degree of influence on culture, the same level of importance. You can easily spend thousands of dollars on shiny diamond jewelry, but all of those pieces will be less significant (to me) than the one my wife wears on her ring finger.

Exploring one’s significance is asking a question about impact. What difference do I (can I) make? What relevance do my skills, abilities, and desires have in the scope of an organization or community? How does who I am become a positive influence to the people and culture around me?

As mentioned in the short video above, our significance hinges on our participation: we have work to do, a role to fulfill, contributions to make. This is our avenue of significance.

The potential is there for each of us to turn our valuable personhood into a presence of significance. We need to show up, engage, steward our personal human resources. We then become significant–not just for what we can do, but for what we have enabled others to do as well.

Significance never happens in isolation, it is inherently a relational virtue: a communal value (rather than an individual one). Until we participate–although our value doesn’t increase or decrease–our significance remains in the realm of possibility, or mere potential. But once we deploy ourselves into the relationships and groups around us, engaging, communicating–and also honoring and submitting–then our significance becomes experienced, both by ourselves and by others.

You are valuable, and excellent followership is your invitation to be the significant contributor that lies within you. Put your uniquenesses to work and let others benefit from the impact and influence of who you are.


For encouragement and guidance in understanding and applying yourself to following with excellence and helping others to do the same, see:

EmbracingFollowership_CoverTextureEmbracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture (by Allen Hamlin Jr; Kirkdale Press, Feb 2016)

Find other recommendations for various aspects of followership on our Resources page.

Links to other posts on this site: Blog Post Index

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