Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Coercive Leadership: Mixed Signals

Transformational Christian leadership generally disavows coercion. On the surface of it, that is. My M.Th. thesis has required a semantic analysis of the literature, which reveals the following. On the one hand, the literature explicitly rejects (I’ll put all the citations in one place) power, force, authoritarianism, power-seeking, control, command, coercion, domination, cajoling, and manipulation (Banks and Ledbetter 2004:86,108; Engstrom 1976:40; Wofford 1999:92,182; Hunter 2004:16,53,55,108; Jinkins 2002:24; Thomas 1999:19; Halcomb, Hamilton, and Malmstadt 2000:219; Thrall, McNicol and McElrath 1999:21; Ford 1991:43; Munroe 2005:43). On the other hand, it regularly describes transformational Christian leadership in terms which suggest much the same: power, forceful power, authority, inducement, enforcement, control, and strength (Hunter 2004:62,63,67; Hybels 2002:64; Halcomb, Hamilton, and Malmstadt 2000:46; Stanley 2006:118; Munroe 2005:76; Maxwell 1998:36,70). Leadership, writes Engstrom (1976:114), is “to control others”, while Wright (2000:16) considers that it is “the exercise of power ... Power is at the heart of leadership, ...” Servant leadership (which is generally synonymous with transformational leadership) “does not avoid the exercise of power ...” (Banks and Ledbetter 2004:108). QUESTION: So which is it? Why the apparently conflicting language -- often by one and the same author? What would represent a genuine alternative?

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