A central part of my job is helping discern people's callings to particular jobs, with search groups. Very often “leadership” is high on the list of essentials. I uderstand why. Everyone is more or less disorientated in a fast-changing world. People look to clergy to help them through the shifting sands, fog, smoke and mirrors. What many busy people want much of the time is a messianic figure who will turn out and fix things for them. This is the age of the quick fix. Sadly some of the most intractable problems communities face didn’t arise like this and won’t go away without costly and potentially time-consuming social and personal transformation.
The temptation is to pick what seems the most obvious candidate — the competent performer to get things done. But what if the problems are not technical problems? One of the limitations of the Anglican Covenant, peace be upon it, is that it is basically a lawyer’s solution to a broader problem — an attempt to solve mutual incomprehension with aspirin — a quick fix to a chronic cultural issue. People would grow more if they engaged with it humanly and spiritually as well as trying to fix it legally; but maybe all we can manage for now is a bit of paper.
The best leader is the slowest, not the fastest lemming, the oddball who slows down, stands aside, and wonders why. She can be of far more value than the sleekest, zippiest rodent. Appointing to technical criteria is a good discipline for preliminary screening and showing up the issues to discuss at interview. Once that stage is reached, however, you need to look for the person's inner security, personally and spiritually, how well they know where they stop and others start, their sense of perspective, their eccentricities, and the factors that make them the slowest, not the fastest Lemming. Otherwise all you get is the greyest, sleekest überLemming who seems to lead the pack, and we all end up in the drink.
The race goes not to the fastest Lemming, but the one who comes back up the cliff. Discuss?