Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Beyond the laws of leadership

I've been reading a book by leadership guru John Maxwell, called
The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. I'm impressed with Maxwell's
page-turning writing style and his simple pithy examples. "Leadership
ability is the lid that determines a person's level of effectiveness."
That's an eye-opening point he makes in his first chapter.

Another quote: "to add growth lead followers but to multiply
growth lead leaders." This one reminds me of what's behind the success of the Religious Right and the Christian mega-churches in the United States. Maxwell himself acknowledges his connection to Bill Hybels ,pastor of the hugely influential Willow Creek Community Church.

Outside Bill Hybels' office is a poster with the caption: "What is
our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?"

Every year Willow Creek Church hosts a leadership conference
which, in previous years, has featured Presidents: Jimmy Carter, Bill
Clinton, and George W. Bush as speakers.

Like the corporate goal of maximizing profits, the goal of the
Willow Creek Mega-church is to maximize the conversion of unbelievers. It has 13,000 member churches and a 50 million dollar state-of-the-art worship center that features the largest auditorium in the United States.

Hybels, in his book: "The Courageous  Leader" says: "Leaders see the big picture and understand how to help others to find their place of
service within that picture." My problem with Bill Hybels is that he
is not thinking big enough. Just because you use words like "God" and
"Jesus" doesn't mean that your vision is big enough. It's simple – the
big picture is how are we going to survive, both as a civilization and
as a species. One of John Maxwell's quotes on leadership is apt here:
"Anyone can steer the ship but it takes a leader to chart the course."

Corporations, are required, by law, to be run solely   in order to
make money for their stockholders. And they have become enormously successful to the point where the size of many corporations rivals that of the nation-state. Exxon-Mobil Corporation has an economy that's bigger than 180 countries. Many of these huge corporations,including Exxon, are corrupting governments so that they will
implement policies that further the corporation's own profit-making
goals. The problem is that, even though corporations are now as
powerful as nation states the rules of the game are fixed so that
these corporations assume no responsibility for future generations.

The problem of focussing on growth of any kind, is that it is
too narrow a focus. While corporations have grown bigger than many
states the environmental and human cost has become too high. Think about the fate of the Titanic. It was so big for its time that people thought it was unsinkable. But its captain couldn't see the iceberg in time to change the big ship's course and the Titanic went down.

When you don't see the bigger picture you aren't navigating,
you're steering blindly. By concentrating on growth, corporate leaders
have forgotten to look ahead at the consequences of their actions.
Making more money is great but as the Indians say: "When the rivers
stop flowing, and nothing can grow in the soil you won't be able to
eat money."

Bill Hybels' favourite quote is "the local church is the hope of
the world." But where was the church when corporations were denying and delaying action on global warming? By prioritizing emotional issues like abortion and homosexuality the religious right has wasted its moral capital. And by mobilizing it's members to help elect the worst president in U.S. history for two terms of office it has essentially abdicated it's leadership and become a tool of the Republican party.

Mega-churches like Willow Creek may be exemplary at churning out leaders but if those leaders don't see what's coming then it's more a case of the blind leading the blind.

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