Am I My Brother’s Keeper

Dr. Anthony W. Adams
Dr. Anthony W. Adams

As leaders and managers how important do you think it is to know your people?  One of my students dealt with this subject when she stated, “There is a need for manager’s to be more vigilant for signs of team member distress; especially when high performing teams show signs of low productivity” (Anne Schaibly, 2013).  Ivancevich, Konopaske, and Matteson (2011) cited a study done that indicated employees under stress from workload and job security are more likely to be influenced by substance abuse.  I think this is especially true in the ministry.  Although it is possible that substance abuse, such as drinking or drugs could be applicable, usually this abuse manifests itself more in overeating or other behaviors that can be detrimental to the spirituality and effectiveness of the minister.  Dr. Gary Grody stated, “Stress is defined as an inability, or the perception that you are unable, to take control of your life.  If you feel in control- even if you’re not but perceive that you are- you won’t feel the stress.  And stress leads to burnout.”

Too many leaders have taken the refrain from Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9, NIV).  This statement is demonstrative of the callous and self-centered attitude of Cain.  This carnal sinful attitude is expressed with the sentiment, whether verbal or nonverbal, “I just don’t care about this person.” This feeling or attitude is sometimes because you feel like you have been hurt or wronged.  However, for many in leadership, their indifference toward those to whom they have been made overseers is simply disinterestedness or being self-centered.  How often has the enemy sowed tares among the followers while our leaders “slept”.

We as leaders, whether in the church realm or business realm, have the responsibility to know the condition of our followers.  David, a former king of Israel, wrote about the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23, KJV).  This passage represented the difficult and perilous times in the life of a sheep or follower, whether actual or perceived.  I say perceived because David used the phrase, “shadow of death.”  A shadow has no real substance.  This passage seems to suggest the idea of dread. How often do people become stressed because they are worried about something that may or may not happen.  David also talked about a sheep that was “cast.”  A cast sheep is one that has turned over on its back and cannot get up again by itself.  The description of a cast sheep can also be the description of our followers.  Some followers find themselves very down or depressed.  It was of extreme importance that a shepherd get to his sheep in time in order to turn them over or lift them up.  If this action did not take place soon enough, the sheep could be lost.  It is also important that a leader get to a downcast follower before it is too late. I would remind you that the criticism of the shepherds in Ezekiel chapter 34 was their lack of care for the sheep.  These sheep were being destroyed because of an absence of attentiveness from their shepherds.

The Lord’s attitude toward His people can be seen with an incident that took place between Him and Peter.  This disciple was very worried about some taxes that were coming due and he didn’t know how he was going to pay them.  Jesus could tell that Peter was worried about something, so he intentionally approached him and took the time to not only talk to him about the situation, but he also helped him to find a solution.  “And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, ‘What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?’  Peter saith unto him, of strangers.  Jesus saith unto him, ‘Then are the children free.  Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee'” (Matthew 17:25-27, KJV).

The fact is when we take on the role and responsibility of leadership, we do become our brother’s keeper.  As leaders, it means we will have to know our people, and to do this we will have to come out of our offices and actually begin to perform the duties of a leader.


Ivancevich, J. M., Konopaske, R., & Matteson, M. T. (2011). Organizational behavior and management (9th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Irwin.

Question: Can leaders become too close or too familiar with their followers? Why or why not?