Thursday, 9 May 2013

Bonhoeffer's critique of leadership

On the weekend I'll be presenting a paper at a colloquium on interfaith persepectives on leadership. My paper (representing the Protestant tradition) is on Dietrich Bonhoeffer's theological critique of leadership in Life Together. Here's an excerpt from the conclusion:
Eight decades later, Bonhoeffer’s dark warnings about the dangers of leadership sound eccentric to a culture marked by a seemingly boundless enthusiasm for leadership, charisma, and influence. The current neglect of a more cautionary perspective on leadership is hard to account for, given that the greatest and most charismatic leaders of the past century have also been responsible for the greatest wickedness. Bonhoeffer’s warnings – written before the beginning of the Second World War – sound today like prophecies. His critical perspective on leadership, informed by Protestant tradition and by keen observation of the political culture of 1930s Germany, remains a prophetic challenge to any account in which leadership as such is regarded as an unequivocal or unambiguous good. For Bonhoeffer, the good to which we ought to aspire is participation in an ordinary, flawed human community. What such a community needs is not vision or influence or psychological management, but “the one word and deed that really binds us together, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ.”

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