“We are so used to hearing what we want to hear and remaining deaf to what it would be well for us to hear that it is hard to break the habit.” Regardless of the subject matter, it is generally quite difficult for us to rid ourselves of preconceived notions availing ourselves of those things it ‘would be well for us to hear’. Yet, in an effort to fulfill God’s purposes for our lives and our world it is particularly important for us to consider leadership in all its facets, that we may demonstrate ourselves to be the leader we were destined to be.
Does the term ‘Leadership’ conjure up an image in your mind? Who do you immediately think of when you are asked to describe leadership in the modern era? For many it might be people who are connected to the political realm either past or present: Margaret Thatcher, Barak Obama, Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan etc. For others, it may be someone who has been a catalyst for initiating significant change in society: Steve Jobs, MLK, Thomas Edison, Bill Gates, etc. Still others will evoke images of people who have made an impact in other ways such as Mother Theresa, Muhammed Ali, Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X, Dwight Eisenhower etc. Not all of the images of leadership are positive. Consider people like Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Kim Jong-il or his lovely son Kim Jong-un, David Koresh etc. What is it about these people and others like them that suggest leadership? Is leadership something that can be analyzed and taught or is it some innate ability to be decisive, attract people to a particular way of thinking and manipulate situations to meet one’s personal desires?
The Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice attempts to increase the dearth of academic writing on the subject of leadership in an effort to elicit meaningful dialogue regarding what it is, what it does, and how it can be developed. In many ways the work, in fact, demonstrates the intangible nature of leadership and confirms our inability to either define or contain it. One thing is certain, leadership is communal. There is no ability to lead without those willing to follow. Queen Elizabeth confirms the need to consider leadership within the framework of community. She says; “I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.” This is confirmed in our text for this week; “Absent collective life, the individual cannot distinguish between ends which are healthy and those which lead to anxiety and anomie.”
In the end, it seems apparent that what is often attributed as leadership skill is often little more than the confluence of circumstance, position and chance. “Too often we thoughtlessly accept conventional system outcomes, such as productivity or profitability, as the ultimate criteria of leadership success and label leaders who were in place when the favorable outcomes appeared as effective.” This is not to suggest that pursuing understanding of leadership is worthless but rather, an encouragement to recognize the biases that we carry in order to uncover new insights by hearing what it ‘would be well for us to hear.’
Tying the discussion of leadership into its impact on the Church one should be particularly attuned to the discussions surrounding its development in contemporary thinking. Maintaining past models of leadership and leadership development for use in contemporary and future church settings likely to exacerbate the sense that the church is disconnected from reality. The Church has long been trapped in a hierarchical leadership model that has in effect professionalized ministry and created a culture where the bulk of the community are passive observers. Perhaps the Church could learn from the CEO of IBM, Sam Palmisano in his effort to divest decision making to those lower down the chain of command. This would effectively empower those working at the ‘coal face’ to discern their own modes of ministry rather than expecting ministry to occur only when the ‘professional’ is present. Palmisano says in regard to his corporation; “The idea is to locate decision making lower in the organization and into the points of connection with customers. In his theory, those dealing with customers should be the ones to integrate IBM, taking innovation to apply to customer needs with a minimum of organizational or operational barriers” Are we hearing what it would be well for us to hear?
The future effectiveness of the Church will largely depend on the leadership that is in place, both in terms of personnel and models. It would behoove all of us interested in filling leadership roles ourselves to recognize our own assumptions regarding what is and is not effective leadership. How do we measure success and/or failure? Should we consider what we may need to hear and apply that will take us toward a future of leadership that is more willing to relinquish control to others? If this text taught us anything it is that the diversity of leadership styles dictates there is no one ‘correct’ means of accomplishing the work of the Church. We should therefore certainly be open to discovering new means and modes of leadership in the Missio Dei.
 Buechner, Frederick. Now and Then. New York, NY: HarperOne, 1991. Print. P. 3.
 “Queen Elizabeth II Quotes.” BrainyQuote, Xplore, www.brainyquote.com/quotes/queen_elizabeth_ii_461461?src=t_leadership.
 Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice (Kindle Location 973). Kindle Edition.
 Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice (Kindle Locations 1332-1333). Kindle Edition.
 Handbook of Leadership Theory and Practice (Kindle Locations 7237-7238). Kindle Edition