The Quest for Power

In our increasingly polarized and tribalistic culture, the desire to exert power over others is rampant. I point my readers to two examples.

In the political realm, it appears that many politicians will do most anything to get elected to legislative office, or re-elected once in office. Why is that? It is my belief that this desire is very often motivated by an inordinate quest for power, a desire to exercise dominion over others; which presents a sharp contrast to the ideal of serving the best interests on those who elected you to a legislative office (which is my reason for supporting the concept of “term-limits”; an idea that begs for elaboration, which is not possible in this brief Musing).

But this problem in the political realm is a special case of a more fundamental problem; a top-down leadership style that says “since I am the boss,” I get to decide things “on my own.” It is indeed true that, as the “boss,” you generally do get the “final word.” But the unanswered question is “HOW do you get to that final word?” Do you decide “on your own?” Or, do you eventually decide based on wise input from those you supervise? These challenging questions present an entre into my second example.

Although I have never served as an elected politician, I served for 23 years as an academic administrator at four Christian liberal arts colleges, which led me to formulate a “collaborative” approach to leadership that presents a sharp contrast to a top-down approach, whatever type of institution one is serving.

In brief, a severe limitation of top-down leadership is that the results will only be as good as the giftedness of the leader. When the leader and his/her followers collaborate, there is great potential for the result to be as good as the collective giftedness of both the leader and followers; and there is great potential for developing a strong sense of “community” at the institution. Furthermore, this collaborative approach to leadership provides a safe and welcoming space for “dissenters” to present minority points of view.

For both of these examples, the root problem is an inordinate desire to exert “power” over others. But why do I consider that to be a problem? Because it is NOT the type of “power” that Jesus taught and lived by, and I aspire to be a “follower of Jesus.” For my elaboration on this assertion, look for my next Musing, titled “The Power of Love Taught and Exemplified by Jesus” (which can foster “community” and welcome “dissenters,” two attributes that are obviously lacking not only in politics and the Academy but in most areas of contemporary discourse).

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