Is Leadership Dead?
- Monday, June 13, 2011
One might argue that Kubicek’s book engages in a sort of hyperbolic call for self-sacrifice precisely because of the self-serving impulses of many CEO’s (and indeed, most of humanity). If this is the case, then he is effective, if not entirely practical. For example, during May, 2011 a variety of leaders lost their influence (for the moment at least) because of their inability to control their own lusts, so Kubicek’s insistence on leaders focusing their energies outside of their own desires is certainly timely.
However, not all limits should be ignored. Sometimes human limitations are not because of sin, but because of personality. Unfortunately, Leadership is Dead does not adequately deal with real personality issues. Kubicek warns against potential pitfalls for introverted leaders, but he does not provide realistic strategies for how introverted leaders can give themselves away without experiencing the kinds of burnout introverted leaders are prone to in a world that expects extroverted behaviors.
As far as a Biblical worldview goes, Kubicek’s warnings against self-preservation certainly correspond with Christ’s own warnings in Luke 9:24. Christ tells us that one must give up one’s life in order to truly save it. Christ also explains His own leadership in Mark 10:45, explaining that He did not come to be served, but rather to serve and even sacrifice His own life for the sake of others.
Kubicek’s comments on influence correspond with reality. From my own experience, I will confess that when I become obsessed with simply preserving what I have (health, wealth, and relationships), then my leadership influence does falter. On the other hand, when I take risks and extend myself (pushing myself to exercise when tired rather than rest, choosing to be generous with my money, and inviting other people into my life and home even when it is not convenient) then I find my influence increases.
Although Kubicek’s book is not rife with scriptural references, he retells the story of David and Goliath as the focus of appendix two. At first, I rolled my eyes at the thought of another “you can beat the giant” essay, but Kubicek’s concluding interpretation works. He explains that the stories of these three characters represent three styles of leadership.
Kubicek equates Goliath with a dominating leadership style, David with the liberating leadership style, and Saul with the self-preserving leadership style. The interpretation works. Goliath is full of bluster, self-confidence, and destructive power. Saul is concerned with preserving his power, and in 1 Samuel 17, his self-preservation paralyzes him, preventing him from becoming a heroic leader. Meanwhile, David, though young and inexperienced as a warrior, has confidence that his past experiences have prepared him for his present obstacle. Moreover, David trusts in a force bigger than himself, bigger than Goliath’s bluster, and bigger than Saul’s instincts for self preservation.
First, let me admit that I’m not entirely objective about Leadership is Dead. This review is written by someone who is not a CEO, but rather someone who studies leadership as both an academic discipline and as a practitioner in an educational setting. Academics are trained to look for possible flaws in any theory, and educators are used to working with resources insufficient for the demands placed on them. So perhaps I’m a little pessimistic. In my own defense, I am neither a “glass is half-full” nor a “glass is half-empty” person. Rather, I tend to notice that the glass has a crack.
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