Does Nouwen’s small book on Christian leadership address all the philosophical or Biblical elements necessary to construct an adequate theory for Christian Leadership? I do not think so. But this book, written in the early 1980’s does open the door to start to examine what a communal, values-based approach to leadership could look like. Nouwen is no longer alone in his call to a values-based approach to leadership (one could consider the work of Robert Greenleaf, Richard Barker and even the most recent writings of Bernard Bass for a few examples of this). Leadership scholars world-wide has proposed that a shift is occurring in our understanding of leadership and that this new, emerging, post-industrial paradigm of leadership has helped leaders to start to think of leadership as something that is done in community instead of the acts of one privileged and empowered individual. This paradigm shift from extreme individualism to perspectives in communal leadership is a global phenomena and is contrasted by Jean Lipmen-Blumen (Thorton F. Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Drucker School of Leadership) with the individualistic, competitive leadership approaches of the past: “…we finally began to reexamine more critically our traditional concept of leadership. It is based on an outmoded ego ideal glorifying the competitive, combative, controlling, creative, aggressive, self-reliant individualist…”
I fully agree that Bruce Winston’s concept of Agapao love as the prime motivator of Christian leadership, is the closest we have come so far to describe this values-driven approach (and in my reading to the concepts Nouwen describes): doing the right thing, for the right reason, at the right time, to the right people will result in authentic Christian leadership that might very well turn out to be spectacularly relevant and powerful – but those results are God’s work, our work is to be obedient to the call to lead in the Name of Jesus.
I would also confess that Nouwen's three temptations: the temptations to be the person of the hour that is known for his spectacular and powerful personage and leadership are all temptations that I can deeply relate to.
Kyrie Eleison (Lord have mercy)