There’s leadership and then there’s…
I do not place much stock in the idea of leadership as it is represented by books about leadership and by modern leadership training and coaching. As long as leadership means acquiring or maintaining power in an attempt to “win” or “execute” or bring about some form of prosperity, success, teamsmanship, financial viability, diversity, or any of the other ends of the secular corporate and political sphere, I’m not interested. I do not adhere to the popular modern conception of leadership that elevates it to the level of the virtues.
Leadership is not a virtue in a classical or Christian sense. As Joshua Gibbs points out: this is an easy distinction to make if we ask ourselves the question: Do we want our enemies to have it? Do we want them to read and make use of books with titles like, “How to Lead People Through Change in 4 Simple Steps?” The answer is a resounding, “no.” I don’t want my enemies to have the corporate virtues of team building, success, or winningness. Instead, I want my enemies to have faith, hope, love, wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance. If they had these virtues, we might not be enemies.
If leadership is not a true virtue, if it is simply another name for power or authority, a “philosophy of leadership” might also be thought of as a “philosophy of authority” or, a “perspective on the ends that authority serves.”
Such a perspective follows:
Authority flows in a sort of successional or hierarchical line. Movement originates with the Prime Mover, and authority originates with the Ideal Type who is Christ. Lesser authorities are types of His Ideal Type. Paul is all about this hierarchy and refers to it in 1 Corinthians when he tells the church to imitate him as he imitates Christ. In the Gospels, the centurion with faith greater than anyone in Israel is praised because he recognizes this flow of authority, and because he recognizes Christ’s place and his place in the cosmic hierarchy.
As a side note, this understanding of authority explains precisely why the power acquired by a despot or a tyrant through a coup d’etat is so destructive. His power attempts to disrupt God’s hierarchical design for authority and dehumanizes those over whom he is lord. He denies the image of God in man by denying the Ideal Type in Christ.
Anyone claiming authority apart from Christlikeness is a cheap hack. Both Herod and Christ were powerful, but one of them wielded secular power, and one of them, sacred power. Herod was undoubtedly a leader, but his leadership came to nothing because he was a fool, despite all of his political prowess and charisma.
Because the image of Christ tyrannizes lesser authorities, and lesser authorities must imitate Him, we can know this about authority: Good men of authority do what Christ does. They exhibit the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. The man vested with authority ought to imitate the one to whom all authority has been given. He dies for his people, slays dragons for his people, gives rest to his people, commands his people, feeds his people, heals his people. He upholds justice, condemns the wicked, fights oppressors, and heals the brokenhearted.
– Bobby McGee
(Originally composed Dec 4, 2020)