Mon • Mar 17th, 2014 • by Tom Nees • Comments 4
Leadership development emerged as a major theme, if not an industry after my seminary days in the early ‘60’s. Back then nearly all we heard about was the SNL – the ‘strong natural leader.’ Leaders, we were led to believe, were born, not made.
Like many others of my so-called ‘silent generation’ (between the WWII ‘greatest generation’ and the Boomers) I began my career feeling inadequate compared to the larger-than-life iconic leaders we were tempted to emulate.
That’s a tough feeling to shake – never sure you were born with the right stuff.
Leadership development advocates turned that around. Leaders are made, not born, claimed Warren Bennis in his book, “On Becoming A Leader.” Leadership, he taught, is a skill to be mastered. Some have gone so far as to claim that everyone is or can become a leader.
The problem is that the dominant leadership image or model was, and remains to a large extent, an authoritative, self-centered CEO.
It was not until the early ‘70’ that we began to hear about another leadership model. In “The Servant as Leader,” Robert Greenleaf, a former AT&T executive wrote about the need for a more humane, if not effective corporate leader—a servant leader rather than the ubiquitous command and control CEO leaders among us.
At first, leadership development studies were resisted in the faith community since some clergy leaders were inclined to behave like self-serving, autocratic CEOs rather than the servant example in their own traditions.
Which brings me to a February 27, report from the Catholic News Service, in which Pope Francis is quoted as saying that “bishops should act not like ambitious corporate executives, but humble evangelists and men of prayer, willing to sacrifice everything for their flocks.”
He went on to say, “We don’t need a manager, the CEO of a business, nor someone who shares our pettiness or low aspirations.”
His complaint is that the stereotypical self-serving CEO model of leadership is not working for clergy leaders.
In fact, that kind of leadership is not working anywhere – in business, the military, government, politics, or the public sector.
That’s what Robert Greenleaf was saying.
And that’s what Barbara Kellerman wrote about in her 2012 book, “The End of Leadership.” Unfortunately, most CEO’s, she wrote, are “neither effective nor ethical.”
Servant leaders are needed as much in the corporate world as in faith communities.
I’m not sure that everyone can be or should even aspire to be a positional leader.
However, to the degree that anyone can serve, then perhaps anyone can lead.