Charisma is Not so Great

Charismatic leadership by itself certainly is greatly overstated. Look, one of the most effective American presidents of the last 100 years was Harry Truman. He didn't have an ounce of charisma. Truman was as bland as a dead mackerel. Everybody who worked for him worshiped him because he was absolutely trustworthy. – Peter Drucker

Wow, what an astute observation from the fine mind of Peter Drucker. He knew a lot about society and business, but some of his most excellent observations focused on leadership. I don’t know if Peter Drucker was a Christian, but he understood Jesus’ teaching about leadership.

It’s a bad day in the church when a leader’s power frightens other leaders from speaking the truth or, maybe worse, blinds them to major problems in a leader's character. And it’s a sad day in the church when a delusional leader thinks that people are following because he’s God's man. Maybe they’re following because of the perks of following, such as high pay, high visibility, job security, protection or enjoying the shine that comes from hanging out with him. Very sad when a person on the pastoral staff of a local church shows symptoms of the Stockholm syndrome, in which he warps himself into sympathizing and caring for the abuser in order to survive. Amazing.

It seems that the world’s ways of leadership have infiltrated the church. It’s the sin in the leader who says, People believe what they’re told. That’s how leadership works. It’s Ephesians 2:2 . . . the spirit of the age, the manipulation by spin, the truth is not the truth, the truth is what I say it is.

How is it that a man as ordinary as Harry Truman could gather so many people behind him who loved him so much? If Drucker's assessment is correct, then Truman’s brilliance was rooted in his character, in the ordinary days of life when people trusted him to do what he said he would do and to shoot straight with them. He had integrity that proved his authenticity, which led to trust and then to leadership. In a genuinely Christian way, whether he knew it or not, Truman served people.

That's character-driven leadership rather than personality-driven leadership. It shouldn't be surprising that the ways of Jesus are proven as the best practice even in the secular world of Harry Truman. And the leadership ways of Jesus should be the obviously best practice in church world.

Character-driven leadership must be the benchmark standard in the local church. Not charisma, although charisma's a fine quality. Not preaching, although preaching's a wonderful gift. Not personality, although a big personality doesn't need to be a problem. 

There's more to the think about in the differences between godly leadership and man-centered leadership. Click on the link to a document titled The Ways of Leadership. It details the differences between the two in motivation, relational style and responses to various leadership challenges.