He revealed his almighty power in Christ when he raised him from the dead and had him sit at his right hand in heaven, far above all rule, power, authority, dominion, or any such supernatural force that could be named, not only in this world but in the world to come as well. Thus has God put all things under the feet of Christ and set him above all things, as head of the Church which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:20-23).
(Christ) is the image of the unseen God, and for all creation he is the firstborn, for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible: thrones, rulers, authorities, powers… All was made through him and for him… Through him God willed to reconcile all things to himself, and through him, through his blood shed on the cross, God establishes peace, on earth as in heaven. (Colossians 1:15-16, 20).
In these two beatifully crafted and densely compact passages, the apostle Paul reminds the Christian community that Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God which he proclaimed (and of which he, himself, is the head and fullest manifestation) is the objective standard by which all else is to be measured and judged. Christ is both the “firstborn” – the one in which “all things were created” as well as the “firstborn from the dead” – the one who became incarnate, who took on our infirmities, who suffered, died, rose and now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. It is in and through Christ that God the Father establishes peace “on earth as in heaven”.
What is of further importance for our continuing reflection on leadership in the light of the Christian faith is the fact that in this language used by both Paul and the first Christian communities; this language of “powers”, “authorities”, “thrones”, “dominions” – seen and unseen – we encounter not just nice poetic imagery but an entrance into a distinct worldview. A worldview prevalent in the time of Christ and Paul which differs from our own. In this worldview we find present an understanding of reality which was able to maintain and hold together an acknowledgement which our modern one does its best to ignore – much to our disadvantage. The acknowldgement is that there are outside forces which can and do impinge upon and direct our lives. Some of these forces are seen and known (i.e. a war or natural tragedy) but some are unseen and unknown – psychological, environmental, cultural, natural or supernatural. Like it or not, we are not solely our own creation.
But all powers and authorities, Paul further asserts, fall under the dominion of Christ. Lest we fall into fear. This is the joyful proclamation of the Gospel! When the powers of our world acknowledge the dominion of Christ and the objective standard of the Kingdom of God they are in right order and they are life-giving. When the powers deny this dominion and objective standard they then become demonic and death-dealing. One of the tasks of the Church in every generation is to proclaim to the powers, authorities and dominions of our world the truth of the lordship of Christ and the dignity of the human person within the Reign of God.
I believe that leadership and success and how it is presented in our time and culture as a pervasive system of thought can be classified as an authority and power which does impinge (seen and unseen) on our lives. Again, I ask the questions; “Whose understanding of leadership?” and “Whose version of success?” To this particular power at work influencing our thoughts and prejudices the Church must proclaim the truth of the dominion of Christ and the Church must judge all interpretations of leadership and success according to the light of Christ and the Kingdom of God.
In this continuing reflection on the dynamics of leadership I will present what I believe to be key themes from Scripture and the lived Tradition that can guide us as the Church in this task of judging and evaluating all the different theories and understandings of leadership which we are bombarded and inundated with in our society in order to determine for ourselves what view of leadership we are to live and set store by.