Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Lent for Extroverts 12: Leadership crisis?

The word 'dominoes' springs to mind with the current almost daily trend for leaders exiting public roles due to allegations of misconduct. Other leadership issues have surfaced with the appointment of a new Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Pope's recent decision to step down from office. Leadership is a hot topic. Who is fit and who is no longer 'fit' to lead?

Edwin Friedman, (d. 2007), Rabbi, family therapist and leadership mentor, wrote A Failure of Nerve, Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix (1999) in which he ruthlessly exposes what he calls the habits of 'chronically anxious and regressive' societies. Powerful emotional drivers which cut across race, class and other socially constructed frameworks, are at work, which sabotage leadership. We are over reliant on expertise and data; we think empathy will solve all relational problems and we think anything to do with 'self' is by definition 'selfish'. The reality is that technology will never be sufficient to address the moral issues of leadership; empathy is ineffective in the face of chronic societal dysfunction and attention to the 'individuation' of 'self' is crucial for leaders who want to escape the emotional entanglement of inward looking systems.

Bringing Friedman's thinking to bear upon the tortured wrangling of Church and State over Women Bishops and gay marriage and the recent political mismanagement and sex abuse allegations is enlightening. 'Blame displacement' and 'herd instinct' spring to mind. 
How does this image make you feel?

Was Jesus a model of a perfect leader? 'Servant leadership' is a term much bandied about in the church, but should you 'serve' an abusive member of a group, or expose them? Are the abusers examples of 'weak' or 'powerful' people in society? 

Perhaps Jesus used his wilderness experience to face the possibility of all the ways he might have chosen to lead, ending up with choosing the 'weakness' of the cross, which turned out, or course, to be its power. 


  1. Interesting reflection, one of my concerns has been how consistency of inner and outer life or public and private life seems to have diminished as a concept people take seriously. However, this sets up a dissonance that is hard to live with psychologically and leads to a lack of integrity and integration. I find it sad to see so many leaders fail or so many people set up to fail because there is not the support there should be from those responsible or an unwillingness to acknowledge the complexities of leadership and to be gracious, accepting and forgiving.

  2. Yes, you're right. 'We get the leaders we deserve', so to speak. And leading is lonely.
    Thanks for your comment.