Monday, September 18, 2006

Leadership Hostility in Community

Leaders sometimes locate their leadership orientation and behaviour in hostile competition with others - the thinking goes something like this; that we construct our own credibility and leadership position by discrediting the person and behaviors of others. I am increasingly convinced that authentic Christian leadership only makes sense in true community where we transform (to make use of Nouwen's matrix of communal transformation) our "natural" hostility towards others into Gospel hospitality.

Maybe the first step is to change our perception and understanding of community and thus leadership. Henri Nouwen says it best:

Some of us tend to do away with things that are slightly damaged. Instead of repairing them we say: ‘Well, I don't have time to fix it, I might as well throw it in the garbage can and buy a new one.’ Often we also treat people this way. We say: ‘Well, he has a problem with drinking; well, she is quite depressed; well, they have mismanaged their business...we'd better not take the risk of working with them.’ When we dismiss people out of hand because of their apparent woundedness, we stunt their lives by ignoring their gifts, which are often buried in their wounds. We all are bruised reeds, whether our bruises are visible or not. The compassionate life is the life in which we believe that strength is hidden in weakness and that true community is a fellowship of the weak.

May we move away from ego-affirming, competitive approaches in leadership to the Christian call to consider others "better than ourselves" (Philippians 2:1-4). For me, this also means accepting those who find themselves in this kind of competitive orientation towards us in true Christian hospitality and to act towards them ensuring our hearts and actions are devout of "selfish ambition or conceit."