My attention has recently been drawn to an item in Christianity Today on “Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Leaders.” Having spent proportionately as much time in ministry work as anyone dealing with leadership issues and leadership training, I can say that the whole issue of leadership has become something of an obsession in Christian circles, for reasons that aren’t as apparent as they look.
In any case, I think a more imaginative–and purposeful–approach is needed for someone in a responsible position to fail. The best plan I’ve seen over the years goes something like this:
- Exclude really good, innovative solutions. Never allow your people to either really think “out of the box” or–heaven forbid–actually act on such thinking. Best example I can think of these days is same sex civil marriage. Our leadership exhorts us to fight yet another culture war in the trenches to “preserve marriage” when a more sensible solution–and one which would throw our opponents hopelessly off balance–can be found in getting rid of civil marriage altogether. (Hint: where was the JP in the Garden of Eden?)
- Only allow bad, unwieldy solutions. Having killed what would really work, force your underlings to slog it out to defeat with methods and/or objectives that really won’t get the job done.
- Blame the underlings when things don’t work out. In the church world, it’s time to “beat the sheep.” They didn’t pray hard enough. They didn’t give enough. They didn’t show up at enough rallies. Never admit that your plan wouldn’t work, or–in some cases–that your plan wasn’t designed to work, but to make you look good by making your people look bad.
This type of modus operandi certainly isn’t restricted to the church world; in fact, I didn’t first see it there. We see this in private industry; it’s the classic plan to make yourself, as a superior in an organisation, to look good by making your people look bad. We also see this in government; it’s the ideal way to regulate an industry out of existence. It can even be used against other bureaucrats when the situation calls for it.
Failure isn’t something that just happens; to do it right, it needs to be planned.