Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Leaders Choose Themselves

I have written about how leaders for the Presbyterian Church can form an establishment, which can be a great resource for the whole denomination. This has led some critics to say that when nominating committees choose leaders, they should not choose powerful people, but a representative group. Which led me to clarify a thought: leaders are not chosen; leaders choose themselves.

Max Weber devotes much fruitful thought to how a charismatic leader draws a following. The followers see a special quality in the leader. Weber says science cannot tell whether the special quality is really in the person, or is in the followers. In either case, leaders are not chosen because they are already powerful, influential, or authoritative. Leaders acquire power, influence, and authority because others follow them.

The crucial issue, then, is what potential leaders actually do that makes them worthy of following - or not. Leaders lead. If others follow, then that is what makes them leaders. If no one follows, then in the great market of authority, they failed to find their market.

Which leads to a further thought. The idea that leaders are chosen because they have been good members of the group - that they are leaders because a nominating committee elevated them for past service to the group - strikes me as a feminine way of thinking about what leadership is. The leader is the servant who is lifted up for doing what the group already does. My idea of leadership, therefore, seems to me more masculine: the leader is the one who has a vision of what new thing the group needs to do.

When I think of it that way, every organization needs both kinds of leaders.


Noel said...

My wife tells me I should write and disagree.

Gruntled said...

Did she choose your for your charisma, or did you choose her for hers?

Anonymous said...

The woman ALWAYS chooses.But that's another discussion.

Aric Clark said...

Interesting how in every significant Biblical example I can think of the leader was chosen by God, often through an intermediary, and the leader was quite often reluctant. Abraham. Joseph. Moses. David. All of the prophets, especially Jeremiah. Jesus. Peter. Paul.

Which one of these men "chose themself" for leadership?

Gruntled said...

The contrast I was drawing was with "chosen by a committee" (or the equivalent).