Leadership Lessons From The Great Books – Shorts #17

The Theology of Leadership Explained

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My name is Jesan Sorrells, and this is the Leadership Lessons from the Great Books Podcast- Shorts.

There’s no co-host on shorts.

These are two-to-four-minute observations, ideas, thoughts, or rants, about the literature, philosophy, psychology, and theology of leadership.

Because listening to me talk about leadership for two to four minutes is better than reading and trying to understand yet another business book.

So, I do mention the “theology” of leadership there in the opening every time I record one of these shorts’ episodes, but I don’t ever fully explain what I mean.
So, let me explain.

In the United States of America, because of the nature of our founding and the ways in which we culturally make meaning, throughout the course of our history, up until about 50 years ago or so, we made meaning through a combination of economics, politics, culture, and religion.

Religion was the biggest one out of all of those, and yes, it was Christian, Protestant, big boy, hellfire, and brimstone religion.

Whether we like it or not as post-modern, very sophisticated people, religion—for much of the United States’ history—wasn’t characterized and caricatured, as the embarrassing crazy conspiracy theory-driven uncle in the basement.

Religion—and by extension theology—was cool, sophisticated, and very, very much the raison d’entre’ by which leaders of all sorts and levels in society led, made money, and thought of themselves and their place in the world.

And then came the New German movement, Marxism, Darwinism, and Freudianism, and all of these other ways of making meaning exploded on the landscape for leaders—and many other unsuspecting people.

And, partially due to Clarence Darrow’s smooth work around William Jennings Bryant at the Scopes Monkey Trial (when was the last time you heard about THAT!) and partially due to the vagaries of the Depression and World War 2, religion—and by extension, theological thinking—was banished to the corner of the public square.

Where it continues to sit today.

What are leaders to make of this?

Well, quite frankly, theology—the study of God—has a lot to say to leaders beyond the mere

If leaders want to have a moral and ethical framework for making money, leading people, and advancing a cause, theology provides that framework.

Sure, philosophies are fine, and scientism will get you far in a material sense, but at the end of the day, as leaders look across the landscape of people, processes, ideas, and resources with which they have been entrusted, there is no better set of tools than those hiding in the unused, rarely opened toolbox in the corner of the public square.

Leaders ignore the study of God and the impact that such study has had on the scope and direction of human meaning at their peril.

The Marxists were wrong 150 years ago in their assertion about opiates and masses, and—after 100 million+ dead in the 20th century due to the logical end of scientifically driven atheism being manifest in the world—they’re wrong now.

Leaders cannot fall prey to the shallow. They must dig deeper—even if they are leading people in an innocuous business, to perform a rote task, in the middle of truly revolutionary times.

This podcast is an appeal to leaders to reach higher and grab more from the tree of knowledge than just the low-hanging fruit of mere philosophical ethics, and to stop rooting around on the ground in dialectical-historical materialism.

The presuppositions and assumptions leaders bring with them to the work of leadership need to be examined and sharpened in the light of eternal, cosmological truths that resist the whims of the capricious and trendy present and demand more of us as human beings.

Then, there is the theology of leadership.

Leaders exist at the top of an emotional and psychological superstructure and hierarchy in their follower’s minds. The leaders who recognize that fact—that truth—and treat such a position with humility, graciousness, and mercy go a lot farther than those who are arrogant, prideful, and self-promoting.

But, let us not now be confused, the meek will inherit great things, and more will be given to those leaders who do as much as they can with the talents and skills they’ve already got, but being “meek” doesn’t mean being weak.

Nor feckless.

The misinterpretation of “the greatest among you will be your servant” as it relates to both inheriting the earth and the Matthew Principle has nothing at all to do with the nature of the leader’s relationship to their followers and has everything to do with the nature of the leader’s relationship to a power higher up the hierarchical ladder.

The nature and constraints of such a relationship lie at the heart of the theology of leadership: How do we keep small “g” gods humble, even as they seek to create heaven on earth, which can quickly devolve into hell on wheels?

We started this podcast to aid and support innocuous leaders, in revolutionary times, in their study of the theology of leadership.

We ask that leaders listening now, take up these tools and apply their use to their own lived leadership reality.

And then go forth and do likewise for other leaders as well.