Leadership not Leaders
They say that leaders are born not made. Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, contenders in the upcoming Presidential Election, have over recent months gone to extraordinary lengths to disparage each other’s credentials.
On British TV recently the American satirist P J O’Rourke described them both as badly wrong, albeit “at least Clinton is wrong within the normal parameters of wrong”. Faint praise indeed. It seems we have high expectations of our leaders but are suspicious of their motives and once in office bemoan their underwhelming performance.
Great leadership is sometimes about seizing the moment of crisis – we think of Ernest Shackleton or Winston Churchill for example. Navigating the uncertainties of Brexit within Scotland and across the UK is already testing Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May’s leadership skills to provide us with a convincing course for the uncharted landscape of today.
Leaders may be inspirational or pragmatic, genuine or misguided. But they can also be a projection of our fantasies and a substitute for taking personal responsibility. We perhaps benefit more from the unassuming everyday leadership exercised by each of us, and less from grandstanding charismatic leaders.
Business schools teach management and leadership skills for the public and private sectors but distinctive Christian leadership is hard to pin down – the Jesus example is a unique one of leadership through self-giving.
As a Church leader I encourage a dispersed kind of leadership. Neither simply top down nor bottom up this means enabling both individuals and the entire organisation to flourish and enrich the lives of others.
Leading with examples of best practice rather than by issuing instructions is in my experience more welcomed and effective. Entrusting confidence between those who lead and are led is vital.
Wise leadership is not all about the leader, it’s about the vision and the journey of the community being served. There is a tragic vanity about eagerly climbing up the ladder of ambition only to find it is resting against the wrong wall.
The Rt Rev Dr Nigel Peyton Bishop of Brechin
Bishop Nigel’s article published in the Courier Dundee on Wednesday 9 November 2016