Monday, May 17, 2004

Absolute Leadership

Does it really make a difference if a leader has clear objectives, set goals, and refined thought about issues, even in significant issues? I think initially most people would say, of course it does. A lot of good can happen when the HT, VT, SS etc programs are running smoothly. But how *correct* do the leader’s ideas have to be in order to make this work?

A few months back I read Robert Keegan’s analysis of intelligence in war. An interesting conclusion he reached was that, for a variety of reasons, having accurate intelligence about a battle historically makes little or no difference to its outcome. While fairly contrary to common sense, he does go a ways to defend the point. For instance even in the risky German invasion of Crete, the Allied generals had all the German objectives and time tables marked well ahead of time. This was as thorough an intelligence coup as they ever was. Even though they came very close to repelling the Germans, the intelligence couldn’t swing the outcome, even though it was entirely based on surprise and deception.

While military intelligence does help generals prepare for what is coming, the real outcome of the battle lies in how the command structure and underlings have been trained. This is why the Werhmach’s use of manuever wafare made the Germans such formidable opponents. Since micromanagement isn’t a viable option in war, all the specifics in the world mean little. Even supposedly precise information may become useless as it gets interpreted from another frame of reference. A seemingly benign omission may make information useless, or even harmful.

I often tend to view revelation from leaders in this regard. The specifics have so many what if’s and caveats associated with them that they are great for looking back and kicking yourself with, but serve more as confidence pieces during real time events. What matters is what people are trained to do when confronted with a tough situation or unusual event. Appealing to *absolutes* that the Holy Ghost can reveal to us, is in my mind tantamount to expecting military intelligence to always win the battle. It definitely may make us feel better, but eventually it won’t come through when needed.

Now I firmly believe that God will always be there for us, but I doubt that we will always be in a position to listen, or more likely, understand what he is saying. Living on absolutes always sets one up for a fall if you truly interact with the outside world. To me, things in this world are so subjective and grey that constantly expecting *correct* revelations or guidance from even divinely inspired mortals should be well tempered with an ability to act for one’s self in a suitable manner.

So the question is why follow a leader if their inspiration is misled? The specific way that lower level church administration works is similar to war time intelligence. Because of this specifics eventually matter for little. What determines the eventual outcome is how well people respond to each other. It is how well they are able to achieve the overarching aims of a conflict. Hence, I think that for us in the church it only matters how charitable we are and how well we are able to help those around us. Specific directives are merely one way to try and get us to accomplish this.

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