Biblical Leadership Metaphors And Contemporary Management Theory: Or, St. Paul, Meet Messrs. Bolman & Deal -- By: Kenneth C. Harper

Journal: Global Journal of Classical Theology
Volume: GJCT 05:3 (Oct 2006)
Article: Biblical Leadership Metaphors And Contemporary Management Theory: Or, St. Paul, Meet Messrs. Bolman & Deal
Author: Kenneth C. Harper


Biblical Leadership Metaphors And Contemporary Management Theory:
Or, St. Paul, Meet Messrs. Bolman & Deal

Dr. Kenneth C. Harper1

Pastor-Head of Staff, Central Presbyterian Church, Miami, Florida
Adjunct Theological Faculty, Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida

Leadership: The Importance Of The Topic

Few topics command more attention than Leadership.2 The Wall Street Journal’s most-recent list of best-selling books contained at least nine titles pertaining to leadership.3 Biographies and autobiographies of great leaders are held up as models for our lives. And some of the greatest classics of management literature, from Max Dupree’s Leadership Is An Art4 to Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive,5 focus on the topic. Nor has Christian literature been lacking. In the United States , where no state church survives by virtue of a protected and tax-supported status, entrepreneurial impulses have been the norm rather than the exception. In an environment of religious competition, seeking an edge through superior leadership takes on spiritual significance. John Maxwell’s The 21 Indispensable Qualities as a Leader6 and Leadership 101: What Every Leader Needs To Know7 stand as just two examples of an attempt to combine biblical insights with management psychology. Christian psychologist and spiritual writer John White analyzed the book of Nehemiah as a paradigm of faith-infused leadership.8

The sheer profusion of texts is enough in itself to suggest that the topic is multifaceted and complex. Original attempts to define leadership potential by identifying so-called “leadership traits” foundered on the twin realities of annoying exceptions and inconsistent performance. For example, though early studies suggested that leaders tend to be taller than average, Napoleon was short. And though early leadership theory suggested that leaders were more intelligent than average, Chicago’s 1960’s-era Mayor, Richard Daley, was cunning but not intelligent. Furthermore, leaders who had been extremely successful in one field were sometimes ineffective in other settings. Military leaders, for example, who’d been extremely successful in battle, found the transition to civilian politics daunting–one thinks of Ulysses S. Grant or Douglas MacArthur.

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