Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Contemplation of death and the quest for Christian leadership

One of our colleagues, a Godly and accomplished woman by the name of Betty Davis, went home to be with our Lord unexpectedly yesterday. This kind of close encounter with death in an organizational context made me think again today of the fragility of life and our common call to authentic Christian leadership.

Christian thinkers going back to St. Paul have described Christian leadership as an engagement with the eternal struggle between two opposing spiritual forces. St. Augustine of Hippo spoke of the City of God and the City of the World: the Civitas Dei and the Civitas Mundi. The former is dedicated to serving others and to God's will and to His glory. The latter is dedicated to the pursuit of worldly ideals - communities, cities of selflishness.

It is clear that St. Augustine was right; and that the contemporary western intellectual world, like the world of his times, is a battleground in which rages a battle for the souls of this world.

Today there is a challenge before us: Christian leadership to change the world. How do we do this? How do we ensure that we do not follow the road of worldliness (the road that leads to the Civitas Mundi, in St. Augustine's words) taken by so many others that have came before us? How do balance the call to holiness and leadership?

St. Francis of Assisi, in the thirteenth century, writing in a letter to the leaders of his day proposes a surprising approach to this tension in leadership:
"Pause and reflect, for the day of death is approaching. I beg you, therefore, with all possible respect, not to forget the Lord or turn from His commandments by reason of the cares and pre-occupations of this should manifest such honor to the Lord among the people entrusted to you...that praise and thanks may be given by all people to the all powerful Lord God."
I would like to highlight the central thought of St. Francis here: contemplating our own mortality as a way to understand and to surrender to our vocation to service, witness, holiness and transformation, because we have a sacred duty to those entrusted to us.

This idea is not new to scripture. Moses writing in Psalm 90 says: "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Contemplating death has a way of focussing us and distilling our vision of God and reality. This does not mean that we must exclusively focus on death or adopt a morbid spirituality. On the contrary, the Swedish Leader Dag Hammarskjöld once said:
"Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment."
We do not walk blindly. Albert Schweitzer once reminded all that: "Example is Leadership."

The quest for Christian leaders is to follow and lead as Christ did, so that we all one day can stand before our Maker and declare: "It is finished." We have done what was asked of us.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Seminar on Christian Leadership at Project Bridges in DC

I will be leading a one-day seminar on the call and process of Christian Leadership at Project Bridges in Washington DC on Saturday, June 24. I have entitled the seminar, "Following in the footsteps of Jesus: The Call and Process of Christian Leadership." Project Bridges' mission is to strengthen and expand the capacity of churches and community organizations through strategic alliances and partnerships that provide relevant training, services, programs and resources. For more information on Project Bridges, follow the link to their website:

The following is a synopsis of the seminar:
The call of Christian leadership brings a deep challenge to those who desire to emulate the leadership of Jesus Christ. Christian leadership requires the voluntary relinquishment of temporal power by those called to lead. The theological construct of the kenosis (self-emptying) of Christ as mentioned in the Philippians Hymn (2:5-11) provides Christian leaders with a foundation for the understanding and application of true biblical leadership formation. This seminar will provide you with a biblical foundation for true Christian leadership and explore practical steps on how leaders are called, shaped, empowered and sent as community leaders that in turn will change their world.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership (JBPL)

I am excited to announce that our school has launched a new on-line journal that seeks to explore the Biblical base for Christian leadership. This journal will be known as the Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership or JBPL for short. I have been asked to be the editor of this new journal and look forward with great anticipation to the opportunity to learn and grow together with so many other scholars and practitioners that seek to facilitate the unfolding of God's Word in our world. The following is a short excerpt from the up-coming news release on the journal as well as links to the journal's homepage (click on the underlined title of the journal below):

The Journal of Biblical Perspectives in Leadership (JBPL), Regent University's newest online publication, seeks manuscript submissions for possible publication in its inaugural issue scheduled for a late Fall 2006 release. All submissions should meet JBPL submission guidelines and be received by JBPL at no later than August 15, 2006.

Sponsored by Regent University's new School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship (GLE) and led by GLE Associate Professor Dr. Corné Bekker, the JBPL is a refereed scholarly journal that aims to provide a forum for international research and exploration of leadership studies focused on the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

Please feel free to forward the link to the journal to anyone you know who shares in this passion for the re-discovery of the Biblical (T)ruths of scripture in our pursuit of Christian leadership.

Reflections on Kenotic Leadership at Leadership Talks

A short audio recording I did a while back on exploring Kenotic aspects of Christian leadership is featured this month at Leadership Talks:

Leadership Talks is a free monthly audio e-newsletter that provides fresh insights and perspectives from leadership scholars, practitioners and presenters from around the world.

Studying the Leadership of Sts. Paul, Francis and Clare of Assisi in Italy 2007

I will be joining Dr. Karin Klenke in 2007 in Italy to lead a studies abroad trip to explore the leadership of the Apostle Paul and Sts. Francis and Clare of Assisi. The itinerary, scope and costs will be available in time at the following link:

St. Clare of Assisi holds a special research interest for me and I presented a paper on her Kenotic Mysticism and Servant Leadership at the Servant Leadership Roundtable in August 2005.

The abstract for this paper, entitled "Kenotic Mysticism and Servant Leadership in the letters of Clare of Assisi to Agnes of Prague", follows:
This paper explores the spirituality and leadership of Clare of Assisi in the letters to Agnes of Prague. Successive repetitive-progressive pattern analysis of the letters to Agnes of Prague places Clare within the domain of servant leader and identifies her leadership values as congruent to Kathleen Patterson's theoretical model of servant leadership. Clare's spirituality is one of appropriation of the kenosis of Jesus Christ. Clare of Assisi links her kenotic mysticism with her practice of servant leadership in an inter-dependent dynamic system of personal and communal transformation through radical self-emptying.

Feel free to contact me if you want a copy or link to the paper.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Empty to Lead: In Search of Kenotic Leadership

Another proposal we did for a panel presentation on the exploration of an authentic model of Spiritual Leadership at the International Leadership Association's (ILA) Annual Conference in Chicago (November 2-5), has been accepted:

I will be presenting a paper entitled, "Empty to Lead: In Search of Kenotic Leadership." Here is the preliminary abstract for the presentation:

The Christian theological construct of kenosis is developed from the occurrence of the Greek word kenao in the Christological Hymn of Paul’s letter to the Philippians (2:5-11) where it describes the voluntary self-emptying of Christ in the incarnation. New Testament scholars have argued in the last century that the grammar, style and vocabulary of the hymn indicate that it was a Greek composition, that the author was most likely a Semitic language speaker, that it was part of the Eucharistic liturgy of the Christian community in Jerusalem and thus probably pre-Pauline. The Christological hymn thus, contains some of the earliest doctrinal and ethical statements of the early Christian movement.

Kenosis, as an ethical construct of the Christian doctrine of the incarnation, speaks of a very specific belief in the mode of God’s interaction with the world. In the doctrine of incarnation, the Christian claim is that God actually lived the life of a man in Jesus of Nazareth and thus the kenosis of God in Christ provides an ethical and philosophical mode of leadership that is based on voluntary abasement and mutuality with all of humankind.

Appropriating the values of kenosis in leadership requires the identification and acceptance of the social and cultural locality of the “self” and the “other” as the beginning point in the leadership exchange. The values of kenosis have been described as, (a) voluntary self-limitation, (b) vulnerability, (c) present to the “other”, (d) voluntary powerlessness, (e) continual purification from self-centeredness, (f) humility, (g) self-sacrifice, and (h) openness to the “other”. Kenosis addresses the true challenge of dialogical behavior and when appropriated is often rooted in a mimetic re-enactment of the self-emptying (kenotic) Christ.

Appropriating the values of kenosis lead to personal transformation of both the leader and follower and enables them to find each other in renewed relationship of radical divesting of power. This “resolute divesting” of the prestige and power inherent in the leadership transaction enables the leader and follower to enter into a new union that is marked by equality and service.

Ubuntu and Mutuality in Post-Apartheid South African Leadership

I recently received word that our proposal on African Leadership has been accepted for the International Leadership Association's (ILA) Annual Conference in Chicago (November 2-5, 2006.) :

I will be presenting a paper entitled: "Ubuntu and Mutuality in Post-Apartheid South African Leadership." Here is a short introduction to the main premise of the paper:

Recent studies in Southern Africa have highlighted the desperate need for indigenous, innovative, values-based leadership approaches in South Africa that will mobilize a wide variety of participants around the common goal of reconstructing a society ravished by racial discrimination, disease prevalence, economic injustices, corruption, crime and leadership failure. This new, emerging, post-industrial paradigm of leadership has helped South Africans to start to think of leadership as something that is done in community in stead of the acts of one privileged individual. This paradigm shift from extreme individualism to perspectives in communal leadership is a global phenomenon and is contrasted with the individualistic, competitive leadership approaches of the Apartheid Regime. This shift to values-based leadership approached is mostly marked by communal presence, trust, dialogue and mutuality.

The South African Nguni word ubuntu, from the aphorism; “Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu – A person is a person because/through others”; can be described as the capacity in African culture to express compassion, reciprocity, dignity, humanity and mutuality in the interest of building and maintaining communities with justice and mutual caring. More than a descriptor of African values, ubuntu should be seen as a social philosophy that is deeply embedded in African culture and the primary foundation of an African worldview.

Ubuntu, seen in the spirit of participatory humanism, has the power to effect a revitalized commitment in South Africans to the rebuilding of their communities. The value and practice of mutuality in ubuntu is defined paradoxically by the differences found in the “other”. Accommodation and respect for the differences in the “other” flows from a recognition of the common humanity of the “self” and the “other”. Mutuality in ubuntu allows for the breaking down of the superficial and artificial barriers between the “actors” in the leadership exchange and allows both leader and follower to see the “other”, discover their mutual humanity and in doing so foster the construction of a caring community that allows for the respectful tolerance of social, cultural, economic and philosophical differences.

The aim of this presentation is to explore the value of mutuality in the African, social philosophy of ubuntu within the matrix of emerging values-based leadership approaches. The cultural and social concepts of ubuntu are rich in definition and implication, and in the light of the constraints of this brief study, the focus is firmly placed on the common value of mutuality and so provide a conceptual platform so as to consider what this might mean for contemporary, Post-Apartheid, South African leadership.

First International Conference on Values-based Leadership in South Africa

Members of the faculty of the School of Leadership Studies at Regent University recently co-hosted the first International Conference on Values-based Leadership at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. We also presented and ministered at several churches and ministries during our stay in South Africa. The next International Conference on Values-based Leadership is scheduled for March 2007 in Stellenbosch. Here are a few pictures of our travels in and around Cape Town. Here is a link to a news release on our trip: