It's probably another of the kinks in my way of looking at the world, and listening to the world, but there are a number of words on the back page of my mental Lexicon and Thesaurus that I treat with caution if not some disdain. I recognise the pervasiveness of some of those words in the discourse and thought inside and outside the church. But that simply adds to the suspicions that inform my hermeneutic!
One of those words on my back page is 'leadership'. When most books on leadership are written by those who count themselves as leaders then an hermeneutic of suspicion takes on a different order of importance. Last week on Radio 4 there was a discussion on the 100 books recommended for leaders in the armed forces. They were books on the psychology of influence, biographies of movers and shakers, text books on tactics and management, the psychology of combat and command, military history and hierarchical systems. They weren't only books on leadership, but books leaders should read. Amongst the lives presented as a model of leadership to be studied and learned from was the biography of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple.
I was given that book for Christmas, and read it, fascinated by the courage and perseverance, the ruthlessness and cunning, his imaginative grasp of marketing linked to human motivation, his insatiable desire to succeed and to dominate. No question - an impressive leader of a company that still leads in product innovation, market saturation, commercial savvy and gilt-edged instinct. Here comes a stupid question - would Steve Jobs have made a good church leader? Would the values and motives, his goals and management style have made the Church a leading global innovator in people transformation?
I know, it's probably a question flawed by category confusions. And yet. None of the characteristics and qualities and values that drove Jobs sound strange in the receptive ears of a secular consumerism that provides the psychological engine of globalised commercial rivalry.
Here's a curious observation. Some of the most influential leaders did not set out to lead - they live a style of life that is attractive, impressive, influential, fascinating and even successful - however we define success. All of this comes out of my reading of Lipsey's biography of Dag Hammarskjold, and in particular the sense of the person Hammarskjold was. He started his tenure at the United Nations by stating the values by which he lived and would serve the UN. They are almost diametrically opposed to those of a Steve Jobs, perhaps because Hammarskjold's goal in life was at the other end of the human spectrum. Not self expression in global innovation in technology, but self-giving in global transformation of human relations. That all sounds judgemental, over-simple, and setting Jobs up for an unfair put down. But that isn't what I'm suggesting. Apart from anything else a strong case can be made for advanced computer technology as a real enahncement of human life, which was also part of Jobs' motivation.
But the difference isn't only qualitative, it is a difference of worldview. Hammarskjold's values, principles and vision were formed in the depths of a personality that was self-consciously Christian, intellectually rich, emotionally painful and intensely, even ruthlessly ethical in its demands upon his own integrity. Reading of the determined force of his moral personality raises for me profound questions about the nature of leadership within the Christian Church. Yes Hammarskjold was engaged in the world of action; and yes he exercised considerable power, diplomatic, political and personal; and yes admittedly not everyone saw things his way and he had to fight to retain the freedom of the peacemaker and the confidence placed in a trusted mediator.
The time is long overdue when the church requires to examine critically the models of leadership it admires, the missional mindset it desires, and the vision to which it aspires. Because Christian leadership is essentially cruciform, inevitably sacrificial, inescapably accountable, and unflinchingly faithful to the one who was rich but for our sakes became poor; the one who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself; the one who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Without overtly saying so, Hammarskjold's life drew its energy, its ethical imperatives and its core values from a deep and enduring commitment to the imitation of Christ. The book of that name, along with the New Testament, were constant companions, reservoirs of spiritual and personal nourishment, and guides to an inner life that surged outward into a life of public service and high ideals. If ever we look for 100 books on Christian leadership, I would hope that somewhere on that list this remarkable man would appear as one who in the midst of his own days, followed faithfully after Christ.