And on this point, Justin Lewis-Anthony and I are in agreement. He opens his book with a brief overview of Christian teaching on leadership and points out the glaring lack of anything like a coherent, shared idea of what leadership is. Instead he says, books on leadership assume that the author knows what it is, and that the audience both knows and agrees with the author on this point. What is assumed, says Lewis Anthony, is usually not some specifically Christian view of leadership but a model of leadership embedded in the general culture out of which the author is writing. We are, he reminds us, subject to various culturally defined myths of leadership which we assume, as we do with many of our cultural mores, to be unarguable universal truths. These myths are usually unconsciously held and are therefore completely invisible to us. If we wish to see them and examine them, the place where they find their most coherent expression is the place where all of our culture's myths are most transparently displayed and promulgated: the movies.
So, for a good deal of the book Lewis-Anthony examines a beguilingly diverse range of movies for their treatment of leadership. As movies in the West are dominated by Hollywood, the leadership myths of America have increasingly become those of the whole of Western Civilisation. His argument is complex enough, but is cogently and entertainingly presented. I don't intend to rehearse his argument here but his conclusion both unnerved and reassured me. He says that the model of leadership embedded in our culture and illustrated time and again in our movies is characterised by individualism and violence and that this is the model uncritically assumed by many writers on Christian leadership. In the church, however, another form of leadership entirely is called for. In the Jesus movement the leader and the community are indissolubly linked and leadership is marked not by rugged John Wayne style individuality but by obedience to God. The path of Jesus is about discipleship and in the closing chapters of the book Lewis-Anthony leans heavily on Dietrich Bonhoeffer as he explains the path of discipleship: a path of death and resurrection taken by all members of the community, including the leader, together. The culturally defined individualistic leadership, exercised through physical, intellectual, emotional or spiritual violence is, in the final analysis a heresy. We are on a different journey and use methods defined by and appropriate to that path.
This is not a large book at about 280 pages including copious footnotes. It began life as a doctoral thesis, and although it has been edited for popular publication its origins show. I read this on my kindle and was constantly ending up lost in the footnotes after I accidentally hit one of the myriad hyperlinks while turning a page. The editing is in places a bit slap dash with some oddly constructed sentences seemingly the result of a none too carefully polished bit of cut and pasting. But those are minor faults. The style is slick and ironically humorous in a dead pan English sort of way.This is a provocative book whose accessibility and sheer entertainment value disguises the intelligence and depth of scholarship which lie behind it. It's well worth spending a few dollars of your book allowance on.