The Orthodox Leader

Leadership Levels: Humility and Magnanimity

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. -Philippians 2:3

Blessings to all on the feast of our Lord’s Ascension.

Returning to leadership matters, I posted last time about Maxwell’s five levels of leadership. I had some questions at the end, but I’m going to ignore those myself for a bit, in order to develop some more thoughts on this topic. At this point, my thinking may diverge from Maxwell’s. Make of that what you will.

Careful reflection reveals that a leader at a particular level always has the option to lead according to a lower level. As a hypothetical example, a leader at level 4 (who owes his stature to the respect garnered by developing other persons’ abilities) can choose to lead as though he were at level 1, for example, in a fit of pique, ordering rather than requesting a subordinate or teammate or church member to do something, “because I say so,” or “because I am the priest.”While this can be done from time to time, it requires those being led to overlook it in a spirit of forbearance. Why? It violates a principle of magnanimity. We naturally expect leaders to be magnanimous, and great leaders to be even more so. We possess an innate desire that our leaders be willing to overlook small insults for the greater good, avoiding any vengeful or resentful spirit. Put another way, great men don’t need to be worried about hecklers. Stepping down to a lower level of leadership means setting aside a higher, godly way of thinking in favor of a lower one built on self-interest to a greater degree.

In fact, this is directly related to what we refer to as the great virtue of humility. We only progress in our spiritual lives to the extent that our pride, our ego, and other personal vanities are set aside or destroyed in favor of seeing ourselves as we really are before Christ. We must recognize ourselves as the greatest of sinners, and, in doing so, we find it so much easier to overlook the sins of others. Humility leads to magnanimity. The greatest Christian leaders are notable for their magnanimity, for their resistance to pettiness and hostility.

Resorting continually to lower levels of leadership, for the sake of passions (like irritation and anger) or impatience or frustration, is to discard humility in favor of pride. It inevitably leads to a leader’s loss of status. That is, the higher level of leadership is traded away for the lower level. In fact, others come to see the original higher level as a fluke, as the exception rather than the norm. The higher levels can be regained, but only with effort and time, and usually only after other damage has been done. Only humility, and the desire to heal the wound, make it possible.

Next time, I’ll be discussing illegitimate acquisition of leadership levels (is that possible? If so, how?) along with a vitally important level that can precede these other 5.

In the meantime, I ask each of you to consider what I’ve said above, and to assess its value. (As the blog title suggests, these are reflections. Like an intimate discussion, we all get sharper as we discuss, even if it means tossing aside something we believed strongly before.) Do you have any examples to share? If so, please use the comments.

(Sorry for the delay since the last post. When you see me again, ask me how the post-exposure rabies shots for the whole family went. I think that sums up the last week pretty well.)

1 comment (click to add your own)

Written by Fr Basil Biberdorf

June 1st, 2011 at 11:40 pm

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