Monday, January 21, 2008

Leadership vs. Manipulation

I find that I continually encounter what would seem to be inner tensions in the Christian leadership literature. See if you can see this one. Vance Packard's definition of leadership is "getting others to want to do something that you are convinced should be done". But George Barna (Leaders on Leadership) rejects this definition, commenting that it "speaks more of manipulation than of true leadership" (Barna G 1997:22). Turn the pages, however, and Barna states that, in his view, vision is "communicated by God to His chosen servant-leaders ... The leader who possesses such vision knows exactly what he wants to achieve and what the end product will look like" (:47). QUESTION: How, then, do Barna's own views differ substantially from those of Packard? I fail to see it. Surely it's still a matter of getting others to follow my conviction.


Anonymous said...

I agree that manipulation is different than leadership. Although I have not read Barna's book (I just googled manipulation vs. leadership), I have been angry due to our pastor "manipulating" information and people to accomplish something that he thinks is essential to our church growth. To me the difference is the spin on information as well as the isolated information given, rather than giving complete information and inspiration to accomplish the goal. He also separates leaders in the church and gives information to which he thinks that individual will respond. He will get a response from that leader and edit that response and then pass on what that leader said rather than saying this is an issue about which the pastor himself feels passionate. The result is anger and division, rather than a group passion that was inspired by the pastor.

Thomas Scarborough said...

Yours is a particularly interesting post. Advocates of transformational leadership might describe this as "pseudotransformational" leadership. However, what you describe would seem to be a fairly common experience. In terms of this post, the suggestion is that it might be bound up with the theory itself. There are fundamentally different ways of doing things, and doing them well, which I hope will be described, at least in part, on this blog. Unfortunately this kind of dynamic tends to be devastating both to the Church and Church leadership. Multiply it by any number of Churches, and you have an explanation, I believe, for a good part of the malaise in the Church in the Global North.