Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Invisibility, Leadership and Love

Written by: on November 18, 2021

How to Disappear is a practical book that draws significantly from the author’s personal observations of nature to suggest several values and ways to being inconspicuous in a time when many seek undue self-promotion. Yet it is also philosophical, building upon the work of Edmund Burke, D.W. Winnicott and other important psychologists and philosophers.

Akiko Busch, an author, editor, columnist, blogger, lecturer and former university teacher for the last 45 years, addresses the important problems of over-exposure and this generation’s pre-occupation with self.  In addition to How to Disappear, she has written and edited books on stewardship, patience, and design.

Contrary to the current fever of ‘selfies’ and posting (or tweeting) about even the most mundane issues, Busch calls this generation to invisibility. Giving example after example of natural phenomena on land and at sea, the author shows that human nature is more inclined towards a meek, invisible disposition than the ‘loud’ one popular culture might lead us to believe. The author’s argument correlates with the stance of John the Baptizer, a remarkable leader described as being “greater than a prophet[1],” yet one who, interestingly, said “I must decrease and He [Jesus] must increase[2].” This concept of ‘decreasing’ is what Busch highlights in her book. Inconspicuousness is not only true in spirituality but also in business. Jim Collins, a researcher who studied several thousand companies to discover the variables of corporate greatness, believes that invisibility is an integral part of great (or Level 5) leadership. According to Collins, Level 5 leaders display “compelling modesty, are self-effacing and understated[3].” In other words, they are invisible.

Busch’s call to invisibility is important because it helps us identify an important social dysfunction today. Looking at invisibility through the lens of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model suggests that this generation struggles with being invisible because it is lacking in at least one area of need: love and belonging. The high rates of unresolved conflict in marriage and other social institutions are evidence of a shortage in this higher-level of intangible but important need. Unfortunately, many people seem to be trying to fill that void through over-exposure, especially through social media. The high level of single parent homes in countries like South Africa, where more than 20% of children 17 years or less did not grow up with both parents[4], is further evidence of a dearth of love and belonging. Obviously, this is not the only reason for the craze for visibility, yet it is an important contributing factor to this social dysfunction. If this need is met through godly families that are loving and respectful, the foundation can be laid for a society that is healthy emotionally, with greater inclination towards invisibility. Presumably, meeting other needs in Maslow’s model would increase the chances of healthier families and societies around the world, and ultimately increase the possibility of greater awareness and embracing of invisibility. However, love and belonging is emphasized in this review as it seems to be the most critical factor for invisibility.

[1] Matthew 11:9

[2] John 3:30

[3] Collins, Jim. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t (2001). P40.

[4] Statistics South Africa http://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=14388 [Accessed 19 November 2021].


About the Author


Henry Gwani

Disciple, husband, father, community development practitioner and student of leadership working among marginalized communities in South Africa

11 responses to “Invisibility, Leadership and Love”

  1. mm Andy Hale says:

    Henry, I’m always fascinated to get your take on reads like this week’s book since you do not come from a western worldview. Thank you.

    In what way do you think the church plays in all of this? How does spiritual formation from your tradition tackle some of these matters?

    • mm Henry Gwani says:

      Much thanks Andy. I think the church must rise to the challenge to rebuild marriages and families through quality teaching and prayer. We must model forgiveness, humility, unity and acts of service. Through these, other character traits, and in-depth spiritual formation, we will hopefully begin to see our families – and societies – heal

  2. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Henry, you make an interesting connection of Busch’s work to Jim Collins and Maslow’s needs, specifically the need for love and belonging. What an odd paradox that social media promises more connection but many feel more isolated. In your work, do you have specific ways to focus on helping families flourish?

    • mm Henry Gwani says:

      Much thanks, Roy. You ask a very important question. We are a very young ministry and so far have only focused on discipling individuals and not whole families. However, one strategy we hope to implement next year, based on findings from my NPO workshops, is to embark on social media campaigns targeting the youth. We hope to design these as youth friendly spiritual formation campaigns that can help bring about personal transformation, and hopefully have a multiplier effect of impacting the family.

  3. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Henry: I like how you bring out the struggle that people face with the need to belong, to have friends, and to be loved versus the need for an individual to have privacy. It has always been a struggle but with technology being a larger part in our daily lives, it brings an added dimension to this conflict. Busch has a lot of common sense advice to give, like spending time with nature and the arts, but ultimately there has to be God space opened up in a person’s heart.

  4. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Henri, I really appreciate how you brought in Maslow’s Hierarchy. Maybe because I have found myself struggling to have my most basic needs met while attempting to function at the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Your correlation between youth’s need to be seen and the need to belong. Having work with teens for many years, I can see how the natural development of young people can be accentuated by today’s media. This could potentially result in the societal dysfunctionality.

  5. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Henry: I always love hearing your perspective on our readings in light of the context in South Africa. With love and belonging being priority, how are you processing that in light of your NPO and the more technology-driven prototypes that emerged from your workshop?

  6. mm Eric Basye says:

    Henry, great post. Good insight to incorporate Collin’s on the text about the invisibility of leaders. Boy or boy, it seems that we are far from this these days, does it not?

    I also liked your connection at the end, regarding the real need for love and belonging. I think that you are spot on with that observation as well. How can we emphasize the value of imago Dei, community, and the church as part of our understanding (and value) of the self?

  7. Elmarie Parker says:

    Henry, thank you for your thoughtful post. I really appreciated your connection between John the Baptist, “I must decrease” and the invisibility discussed by Busch. So much of your post led me to think about character and how character is developed within us. I’m also struck by the irony in your post–your desire to give young people the space to develop their interior worlds, and potentially using social media to reach them. How are you holding in tension the challenges of social media pushing for performative responses and the desire to create space for participants to reflect more deeply?

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