Where does leadership power come from?


Time and time again, leadership emerges from those who are able to keep cool heads under fire. Soldiers have seen this in the fields since the beginning of war. Keeping a cool head does not guarantee survival, but it gets the attention of those around who are struggling to be in control themselves. Control is central, or perhaps more accurately, the perception of control is what leads us.

Dictators rule by fear. They keep cool but spread anxiety to everyone around them, reminding them of the dangers, and make their voice the single point of authority. Firemen and Police use this tactic during emergency situations. No one takes a vote in a crisis – they just follow the loudest voice in uniform.

Monarchs rule by comparison. There is always a cousin or neice with aspirations to the throne, so they have to consistently point out how much worse the grass is on the other side of the bridge. They invite those around them to treat them with the care and respect as a symbol of how they feel about their own community. How do monarchs come into power? They submit to the public they they best represent the best face of the community and spend their time defending that symbolism. Homecoming kings and queens may not have the same kind of direct authority as dictators, but they get more airplay than those around them.

Bureaucrat rule by fear also, but in a more empowering way. They, like monarchs, present a series of options, but rather than presenting themselves as the ideal leader, they present the ideal choice as something they have a corner on the market and are the only ones who can deliver the goods. This is paid for security when it happens above the law and extortion when it goes on underneath. You may not know them, but you like what they offer and they send you the bill.

The last kind of ruler is the democratic leader. The democratic leader serves on behalf of the majority opinion. They are responsible for the sifting through the many voices and spotlighting the most prevalent ones. In a pure democracy the minority voice will always be drowned out, even if the groups considered “minority” change from time to time and in between different subjects. These leaders have the disadvantage of needing to justify themselves against any other potential leader.

There is a curious resemblance between the kind of authority projected by the leadership in democratic, socialist, and dictatorial leadership. Generally the shift from the former to the latter occurs with increased military or hired protection and the amount of political polls taken in the public decreases with the one exception of polls regarding loyalty to the leadership.

In all of the chatter about differing political groups, we sometimes forget that every level of authority is overseen by individuals. Even when those individuals lead as a team, they all have names, faces, histories, and aspirations. Battles are fought against nameless, faceless enemies, but peace is made between those who know each other by name. This does not only apply among leaders, the same applies for all people. In our age where information is the commerce of power even the most greedy and malcious minded of leaders will admit that knowing people is important for leadership. How much more so then for those who seek to lead out of benevolent motives.

The bottom line is this: leadership is about who you know.

““Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a strangerʼs voice.” – John‬ ‭10:1-5‬ ‭NIV‬

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