The myth of the omni-competent leader

Eventually all of us run into our limitations. It’s here that we face a choice: do we hide and mask our weaknesses, or do we let those weaknesses drive us to the cross and back to God?

There’s a myth out there right now that’s fairly common. It’s the myth of the omni-competent leader. It’s a myth that is partially true because there are truly outstanding leaders out there. But in the end it isn’t true or helpful for a number of reasons:

  • There aren’t enough extraordinary leaders to go around.
  • Where they exist, a personality cult develops.
  • As Jim Collins points out, these extraordinary leaders aren’t good long-term for an organization. “The moment a leader allows himself to become the primary reality people worry about, rather than reality being the primary reality, you have a recipe for mediocrity, or worse.”
  • Within the church, the extraordinary leader receives undue attention and the other necessary parts of the body don’t get to play their roles.

But still the myth of the extraordinary leader persists, even (especially?) in the church.

This came to mind lately because although I believe all of this, at a certain level I don’t. I resonate with this post by David Wayne:

Our church is on a journey right now that is somewhere between very exciting and terribly frightening.  In all of this I have never felt less competent as a leader than I have recently.  Because of that this whole “preach the gospel to yourself every day” thing that a lot of us talk about has become more real to me than ever.

David then quotes Dan Allender’s book Leading with a Limp, a book that has also meant a lot to me. (I’ve posted on it here and here). He then refers to an excellent post at Common Grounds Online. Don’t miss the last paragraph:

The Church, as a corporate body, is to do daily life like this scene of confession. Why? Because the Church is filled with people who are, in Luther’s words, simul iustus et peccador. In English, this means simultaneously sinning and justified. If we regularly enacted this scene from Phone Booth, we would honestly and brokenly proclaim our peccador-ness. If we confessed our sinfulness to our spouses, children, parents, friends,  colleagues, neighbors, then others around us wouldn’t feel the pressure to display only their iustus-ness.
Besides, any (and thus all) justification we have is alien to us. Our true, actual justification before God and others is alien in that it comes from outside of us. Not one smidgen of the righteousness that pleases God comes from us; rather, it is wholly a gift of grace that we are covered in Jesus’ blood and righteousness. So, why are we wasting so much time and energy on displaying our self-righteousness. Why not just live according to Scripture…and boast in weakness?
We are scared to death to boast in our weakness because it violates culture (best foot forward, turn your good side to the camera), but if all of us in the Church would boast in our weakness together, we would become a Gospel-suffused community of honesty, brokenness, repentance, grace, forgiveness and restoration. In short, we would be a community of joyful intimacy.

I believe all of this…and yet I don’t. The real challenge is to let this belief become the dominant way we think and act. It’s only then that we’ll stop taking our cues from culture and we’ll really begin to live as a counter-cultural community shaped by the gospel – and maybe even see God’s power show up in new ways.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada