Sunday, February 11, 2007

Cross-Centred Leadership?

A theme that I am dying to research is the concept of what I am calling "cross-centred leadership", focusing on Paul's teaching on leadership in 2 Corinthians in particular. I developed some on the concept in my book, "In the Shadow of the Cross" but I would very much like to take it further. Leadership is one of my favorite subjects but as I read Paul's words, I am convinced that he has much to teach us about leadership that we, as Christian leaders have not taken to heart. Especially significant, I believe, is his teaching on how leadership has more to do with sacrifice than power and position. This you don't find much either taught or practiced today. Everything seems to be about "vision" and "empowerment" in most leadership books today. Not to minimize these concepts, as I do believe that they are important, but I am not sure that they are proper starting point in developing a philosophy of leadership.

I am beginning to pick up some material on the subject and hope to start studying it in detail within the next few months. I will share some thoughts from time to time on what I am learning. If anyone has any run across some academic writings on the subject, I would be grateful if you could let me know.


Jack Niewold said...

Glenn, in my doctoral dissertation I came into contact with a new "school" of leadership called "sacrificial leadership." As a secular style, it stresses the leader's willingness to put aside his or her own agenda and elevate that of the follower. In some ways, sacrificial leadership is an oxymoron, in that one surrenders his or her own program for another's. It would be hard to call this leadership, though we might think of it in any number of other ways. In any event, there are some scholars working in the area of self-sacrifice in business settings. Now that I no longer have access to university databases I wouldn't be able to track any of these academic materials, but in any event I don't think they would be very helpful in our context.

I once heard someone describe Bruce Olson's life and ministry in the jungles and mountains of Columbia as "sacrificial leadership." His book "Bruchko" is certainly a harrowing tale of one man's courage and perseverance.

Wurmbrand's example, in my humble estimation, is not one of sacrificial leadership, but, as I call it in my work, incarnational leadership. He clearly saw himself as the very presence of Jesus Christ in his identification with the imprisoned and oppressed. We fail to grasp the power and moment of this affirmation, thinking, "yeah, right, we're all little incarnations of Jesus in our own way." That isn't what this is all about. Wurmbrand saw himself, and said so many times, as Jesus Christ personified there and then, here and now. It was not a behavior or a pose for him; it was a state of being. It's what allowed him to triumph in the dungeons, but it's what caused him to live "in the cells" until his dying day.

There are a number of corollaries to this, which I expand on, at least in a preliminary way, in my dissertation, where I "paint a picture" of what the incarnational leader of today would look like ("I don't yet consider myself to have arrived," by the way, if I may quote Paul). But I've already gone way beyond a proper posting length here. I would be glad to work up a summary for you if you want it.

Glenn Penner said...

Thanks, Jack. I was actually going to write you as I had wanted to see a copy of your dissertation on Wurmbrand and leadership when you were done.

It seems to me that we have to be careful not to make too close of a distinction here between incarnational and sacrificial. The very nature of the incarnation was sacrifice (cf. Phil. 2:6-8)

Jack Niewold said...

Yes, this is true, Glenn, but there is much more to a fully developed doctrine of incarnation than sacrifice, and we stunt our understanding of leadership when we limit it to just this one dimension of the incarnation. I will be in touch with you via email soon and discuss how I can get a copy of my work to you. As of this moment, I'm not certain my stuff is yet copyrighted, so I can't share it here. Blessings.

Glenn Penner said...

I certainly agree that sacrifice is not all that there is to incarnational, but it must not be separated from it. This is what I am arguing for.

Look forward to hearing from you via email.

Anonymous said...

Hi Glenn,

Here is a link to a book on spiritual leadership, which I think is worth reading.

I have read and been blessed through many of this author's books and I am sure it may be useful to you.

Eunice said...

The word "Leadership" in the church has come to resemble that seen in the business world. It can be as ruthless and autocratic. (Look at the website called Battered Sheep.) In leadership seminars for Christians secular businessmen are some of the teachers. Where is the shepherd heart for the flock? Where is the recognition of Christ as being the head of the Body? Some pastors now consider themselves CEOs.