Leadership & Theology?

Why write about theology when discussing leadership? 

Georgia Sorenson, writing on James MacGregor Burns, observed that he changed modern leadership studies, which historically focused on effectiveness by insisting leadership has moral dimensions, in fact, that leadership as a relationship, has a moral core of motivations (in Couto, R. (Ed.) 2007, pp.24-25). Since then, the bulk of academic leadership studies has focused on the values of both leader and led. The trick for many corporations is identifying the values of their group. 

Not a problem for church people. Theology is the codification of the values of church goers. In other words, if you want to know the values of a group of Christians, look to their theological commitments. They may not be well articulated or executed but they do represent the group’s stated value system. Leader scholar Ron Heifetz convincingly argues that change leadership addresses the gap between values and behavior or between competing values. 

Lest that sound too simple, let me complicate it some. Theology is different from doctrine. To modify slightly Lindbeck’s (1984) analogy, doctrines are like words and theologies like sentences. While people are agreed as to the basic meaning of the word, its application in a sentence is how it truly operates. So too with doctrine. Doctrines are arranged in terms of hierarchy, one building on another, one being in relationship to another. Which one is most important? Which one starts us off? How do they relate to one another? How should they be applied?  The answers to those questions (and many others) becomes the theology and the culture of the group. This is where modern leadership theory and theology intersect.

By the way, everyone has a theology. Have you given thought to yours?



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