Authority: Leading and Following

This is in response and addition to Dan posts on leadership. I have done a bit of writing on the ideas of authority over the past few years. I have grown a lot in my understanding of what it means and where I am in the spectrum. You can read all the posts I wrote on authority here. It’s odd to link back to posts I’ve written one or two years ago because I’ve changes so much. Yet there is still this underlying idea of what I think about leadership and authority and I think it is still quite prevalent. It’s funny though because I find myself slipping and being tempted constantly by the idea of power and leadership that I like to pull away from what I really think about it at times. I like when people follow me, listen to me and do what I think its best. I like when people read my blog and say that I made them think and challenged them to live differently. I like it because I like being in front and listened to as if I actually have something of value that they need and the only way they are going to get it is if I tell them.

In this sense, I can see how leadership needs to be redefined away from one individual passing something of value to another creating some sort of hierarchy which puts one in power and the other in powerlessness. However, I still think there is a place for leadership in the kingdom that can work. Miroslav Volf talks about the relationship between givers and receivers in his book Free of Charge and how almost always their relationship becomes skewed. He says that “many maintain that the act of giving puts the giver in a position of wealth and power, whereas the act of receiving puts a person in a position of poverty and weakness.” He goes on to say later than when this exchange is done in love “gifts neither establish the superiority of the giver, nor rigger rivalry between the giver and receiver.” I wonder if the relationship between a leader and a follower can follow this same pattern. Where leadership almost always comes in power, selfish influence and distorts the relationship that humans are to have with one another. Yet when done in love, maybe there is some redeemable factor of the relationship.

I don’t think I can throw out all ideas of leadership. There is something inside of it that still rings true with me. I think there can be a leader/follower relationship that is healthy and not degrading to either side. It needs to be reinvented, of course, but I don’t think it needs to be thrown out or looked past. I think this is where my language of influence starts coming in. I don’t mean influence as something used as a tool to convince people to follow, but I mean influence as a by-product of who you are. Influence can’t be sought after and achieved unselfishly. It should come unbeknownst and then I would consider that grounds for the beginnings of a true leader.

I still think there is room in the kingdom for leaders. I would like to think it fits in with all the other weird tensions. Everyone needs to understand and live in both sides. We have such a bad view of leadership that when we think of it we automatically think of harmful relationships or forceful dictators. I do believe though that there is a place for leaders because it’s their gift. There needs to be an entire new reworking on what this means or look like, and in most ways I have no idea. As I write this post the more I run Volf’s book through my head and I realize how close the relationship is between giving and receiving and leading and following and that it could be redeemable and there is a proper place for it.

3 Comments

  • I’ve always had mixed feelings on Leadership, but I don’t find myself having the misgivings about Leadership that you and Dan both seem to express to varying degrees.

    I guess I wonder if you’ve ever experienced positive examples of Leadership?

    Or maybe the word “Leadership” carries specific connotations for each of us leaving us taslknig about similar, but not the same issues??

  • I think I am in a positive leadership experience right now. The way Joe, Darryl and I work doing theStory I think is very positive.

    We all have different roles, there is mutual amount of respect for each other that we all sort of follow each other but we all sort of lead in our own way.

    I’ve had similiar experiences where power is used to force people out of their positions or humiliated because of disagreements and fights. Power is used as some sort of charm to get their own way. I think that’s what I’m fighting against.

  • Nathan,

    You mentioned in your response that you are fighting power and force. I’m curious why you didn’t write about those issues instead of leadership?

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