A lot of us are cynical about leadership today. And sometimes we’re not just cynical toward our leaders, we’re hostile. It's certainly hard being led today, but try being a leader. Leadership invites criticism, resistance, and sometimes even violence. Gone are the days when leaders were granted automatic authority and respect.
And to a large degree, leaders have done this to themselves.
We’ve now lived through a long, dry season of marginal and oftentimes rotten leadership. Corporate moguls have ransacked their companies. Politicians seem unable to break out of ideological gridlock. Religious leaders have betrayed public trust. So have teachers and parents and coaches and so on. Not a lot of them, of course, but a few rotten apples have soured a lot of us on the whole bushel basket.
Years ago, when I was in business school (a BS in Business Administration with a minor in marketing), Robert Greenleaf's Servant Leadership was highly influential. Today, there's a renewed summons to a kind of leadership that's truly spirited--that is, resourced by an inner vision and outer practices that cultivate the common good.
For example, Pope Francis has caught the world's eye with his humble and courageous vision and habits. Corporate executive Chris Lowney's delightful new book, Pope Francis: Why He Leaders the Way He Leads is a sign of this call to renew leadership.
And in this brief TED Talk, Simon Sinek explores the way leaders create communities where we feel safe and from that sense of leader-inspired safety, organizations and communities flourish.
Of course, I see in this renewal a glimpse of Jesus himself, who protects and serves and sacrifices for those he leads. For too long pastoral ministry has mimicked the corporate world of leadership, and the results aren't good.
The corporate world is looking for new models. Maybe we in the church should return to ours.