Q1: How do you develop leaders?
A1: You don’t. Circumstances, history, temperament, opportunity, volition and various other factors make room for leaders to rise. Leaders do not develop in a vacuum.
Both Churchill and Hitler rose to power and influence because they were the right (or wrong) people at the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time. Both were powerful leaders, willfull men, visionaries and forceful communicators. Apart from their particular moment in history, these two men would not have emerged to global and historical prominence.
Churchill and Hitler were both great* leaders, but the cause of one was noble and the cause of the other evil. The world is filled with leaders able to move and inspire their fellows. They are all around us. Some are obviously leaders and others are latent leaders that will rise if and when the moment presents itself.
Q2: Ok, So what do we do then?
A2: Our preoccupation should not be with developing great leaders. History and human ambition will decide the moments for greatness. Our preoccupation should revolve around developing good women and men who are sensitively following the spirit.
The key to making the world better is to call all women and men, whether leaders in the moment or not, towards a passionate and active involvement in a noble cause. For our purposes, let’s make simple the process of Jesus.
- Jesus set off on his mission
- He called a few to join him on his mission
- He took those who joined him as active observers of the mission
- He delegated responsibilities to them
- They debriefed on their experiences while on mission
- They sloooowly began to understand the mission
- They rose to take on the mission when the moment presented itself.
This is a large part of the process for developing good women and men. Call them to accomplish something worth doing, teach them while doing it, give them more responsibility while you do it together. Eventually some of them will get it.
I was recently talking with a friend about the state of Theological Education today. I made the comment that we place too much faith on the premise that theological education motivates spiritual activity. This may be the heart of the problem. Jesus’ process reverses this. His process suggests that inspired action permits theological comprehension.
So, you want to develop leaders? Develop doers. Explain things as you go. Trust with more responsibility those who come along. Step out of the way.
There. I’ve said it in three different ways. Take the one you like.
See you in the mystic…
* I do not mean to say that Hitler was a “great” leader in the sense of “morally great.” I mean that he was great in the sense that if leadership is defined as having followers, and he had a great many of them, then he certainly qualifies as great. Both Hitler and his followers were seized by evil and acted immorally. That’s why teaching all men to love good and hate evil is the primal lesson to teach our sons and daughters. We never know when history will call them up to influence many and shape the experience of nations. But, even if history does not call them to lead at this level, the human experience is one of millions and billions of experiences with good and evil at the personal level.
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