Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Leadership is an interesting idea. A simplistic definition: "a leader is someone with followers." With so many seminars and courses on leadership and management, the world should be full of leaders. We should all be marching in a happy circle, each person leading the followers and following the leaders.

Many ideas on leadership are intuitive - of course if you are compassionate, can motivate people, and have vision you should be growing the company (or the church) and getting a good return for your investment. Sometimes it even happens that way. Every once in a while a new frenzy erupts around the latest method of getting the team rallied and profits up, and after the flurry of activity dies down, we're on the same track, doing our best to get the job done.

Today in class, our professor, who scanned leadership theories as part of his dissertation, gave us an overview on the primary secular methods and studies dealing with leaders. Academics spend years researching people groups and business models.

The conclusion? "No one knows nuttin' we didden know befor." Sometimes an idea works, sometimes it doesn't. In the end, the most logical, well-thought out theories are only a bunch of guesses suited to a certain personality and skill set. No one can really live out another person's model--not even in our Western culture. Transferring 1) 2) 3) and presto, you're a leader! to another culture is even more ludicrous.

The most famous speakers and popular writers on how to lead are people with good publicists: they make a good living on the dollars people are willing to spend for their few bullet points mixed with common sense. Most are also entertainers so their presentation is exciting and fun.

Do people come away from their seminars transformed into good leaders? Not very often. Is it worth hearing possibilities? Worth being inspired? Probably.

The idea that makes the most sense this week is that people, steeped in their worldview, will lead with their gifts and personality according to their culture and the expectations of those around them. Our default behavior in a crisis is probably going to be what we know, not what we learned from the last book outline. Dictators will drag their underlings into submission. Tribal leaders may confer with their community, Western leaders may leverage their team or power base, and the rest of us will jump on board or drag our feet in following.

The next book on leadership is still waiting to be written.

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