November 10, 2009

"Leadership is mimetic"

Rob Harrison:

...Now, as I've noted before, I'm a preacher, and I think like one; and one of the things that years of preaching the word of God given through such hard-headed types as Paul and James has taught me is that "out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks." In other words, what we say (and also what we do) proceeds out of our beliefs, our attitudes, and our moral commitments. The willingness to set aside the moral crimes of foreign governments and just "do bidness" with them Chicago style cannot be judged or regarded merely as an intellectual approach; it is a moral act, it is an expression of the faith of our president, and must be understood as such. The same is true of his remarks following the Fort Hood shooting.

Similarly, the fact that Gov. Palin persists in addressing such events as the shooting at Fort Hood and the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and that she was willing to take a stand amidst the chaos of the NY-23 special election, cannot be interpreted merely in terms of political calculation; this, too, speaks to her moral qualifications for leadership. Her statements give us indications as to whether she has the strength of character to lead without flinching from the task, and the wisdom to lead well; they also tell us much about what she believes at the core of her being, and how those beliefs drive and shape her as a leader. As such, while most have been parsing her statements for what they say about her intellectual qualifications (for, in particular, the top job)—and while this is not insignificant—what they say about her moral qualifications is, in my view, more important.

You see, from a biblical point of view, the most basic part of leadership isn't decision-making or setting the agenda or casting the vision or knowing the issues; rather, the most basic part is providing a model for people to follow. The most basic statement of Christian leadership is offered by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1: "Be imitators of me as I am of Christ." Now, obviously, this doesn't transfer directly to political leadership (though for those who claim to be Christians, the correspondence is a lot closer than you might think), but the basic principle holds: leadership is mimetic, which is to say, it's about imitation.

To be specific, it's about taking your faith—the principles you believe in, the truths you understand to be primary, the values you see as of first importance—and incarnating it, making it real in your life, so that others can look at you and see what it means to live, in the real world, according to those beliefs. For most people, that's the only way they'll be able to go and do likewise. Most people need more than just to have it explained, they need to see it in action—and that is the heartbeat of leadership. This necessitates a deep commitment to one's faith, a staunch consistency in adhering to it, and the courage to stand to it even when that seems to be the harder, riskier or more dangerous path; it requires leaders to choose what they believe to be right over what is popular or expedient or safe, trusting that their vindication will come in due time....
Posted by John Weidner at November 10, 2009 2:48 PM
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