Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Mailvox: on Jesus Christ and leadership

Despite choosing a name that is after my own heart, Sartrewasamoron reveals a complete failure to grok the concept of leadership, let alone the way in which Jesus Christ exercised it:

Jesus, the consumate leader of the church, and the consumate completely submitted follower of the Father ... two utterly nonconflicting roles carried out at the same time perfectly... empty of self and never bitterly demanding his "rights" as a leader be respected ... laying down his "rights" and sacrificing all, as all leaders must if they are in fact leaders, per God the Father. You remember the Father, don't you? After all, He gave His all, His Son. Or had you forgotten? You know, it's a leadership thing, giving ... but you can't seem to grasp it.

What a complete crock of stinking nonsense. Giving cannot possibly be a leadership thing, or God would not require it of everyone. "We are all leaders!" cry the Gamma Males, “everyone is the same!” assert the Beta Females, all unconvincingly and with no basis in science, Scripture, logic or language. And in every case, a profound and willful obtuseness towards the words and deeds of Jesus Christ are demonstrated.

For Jesus Christ did not bitterly demand his rights, he blithely exercised them. The desperate, defensive attempts to elevate one example of service over the cornucopia of exercises in leadership are hilarious, or at least they would be if one could not see the terrible damage the doctrine the "servant leaders" have pushed on church and society has wrought. In but a few chapters of a single book, one can see many examples of how he “humbly served”:

He issues direct orders: "Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." - John 5:8. "When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." - John 6:12

He gives warnings of future consequences: "Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." - John 5:14

He understands the principle of delegation: "Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son" - John 5:22

He delegates and trusts his followers to enact his will: "Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." - John 6:10

He allows his followers to experience the consequences of refusing his leadership: "On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?" Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you?....From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.” - John 6:60-67

[Note - I regard this to be a key example. Too many leaders are lured into micromanagement in honest efforts to prevent their followers from making predictable mistakes. Much better to warn them, allow them to make their own decisions, then let them experience the consquences, including punishment if necessary. Then remind them that they were warned. Most will learn to trust the leader, those that don't are incorrigible and should be fired.]

His actions are not subject to questioning or explanation: "Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, "What do you want?" or "Why are you talking with her?" - John 4:27

One thing that has become very clear to me throughout this discussion is how few individuals, male or female, have any concept of what leadership is. Leadership is not about giving orders, although the leader has to be willing and able to give them. It is not about controlling others, although the leader has to be in control. It is not about giving, although the leader has to be willing to sacrifice his interests for the long-term interests of the group he is leading. The fact that nearly every defender of the "servant leader" myth points to what is obviously poor and ineffective leadership as a substitute for making their case only underlines the fundamental weakness of their position.

Ironically, the Sports Guy has a better grasp than most on the concept underlying the theological matter. In a recent column, he identified the three marks of a terrible NBA general manager, which can be directly applied to three marks of a terrible business or family leader:

1. Puts own short-term interests ahead of team's long-term interests.
2. Focused on tomorrow's possibilities instead of today's realities.
3. A total inability to grasp financial limits.

With regards to the theological, it is the first flaw that is the most applicable. Ken Lay of Enron and Bernard Ebbars of WorldCom were terrible leaders because they demonstrated more interest in exploiting the opportunities presented to them in their positions than in exercising their duty to their employees and shareholders. The good CEO, like the good husband, is concerned first with protecting the long-term interests (not the immediate desires) of those over whom he holds authority; if he does an excellent job in that regard no one will begrudge him the perquisites of his position.

Leadership is, first and foremost, about providing direction to those who follow. This does not mean constantly giving orders or watching for every minor misstep, indeed, a tendency to micromanage is the hallmark of the incompetent middle manager and in any high-functioning corporation this is usually enough to disqualify a contender from reaching executive status. Anyone who has ever served in the military will know that the best officers are those who know how to delegate, who make sure that everyone knows the plan, knows their role in it, and then leaves them alone to perform that role to the best of their ability. It is the leader's trust in the follower that inspires the follower's faith in the leader.

Of course, when that trust in the follower is disappointed, the leader has a responsibility to correct the follower's failure. Turning to God in prayer instead of speaking to the errant wife is an abdication of that responsibility; imagine the reaction of the general if a lieutenant complained that a private was not listening to him, or a CEO if a technical support manager complained that someone manning the tech support phone lines refused to answer the phones. In either case, the result will be, at a minimum, a much-deserved butt-chewing for the incompetent lieutenant or manager.

The fundamental stupidity of the "mutual submission" doctrine - or "equal partners" as I prefer to more accurately describe it - is that it deprives a family of leadership and therefore direction. Submission cannot be a synonym for obedience, as it is not possible for two individuals to obey each other, nor can it erase the command for wives to obey their husbands anymore than it cancels out the command for husbands to love their wives.

An equal partnership sans leadership, regardless of the rationalization for it, is likely to result in a constant struggle for power, a lack of unified direction and eventual failure. Perhaps it is only a coincidence that this has become a common description of many Christian marriages today following the rise of the servant leader myth, but I highly doubt it.

There is truth in the old chestnuts. Lead, follow or get out of the way.


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