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.