When Does Leadership Begin?

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

Strong and Weak is a little book by Andy Crouch, and in it he contends that human beings are meant to flourish. That’s what we’re made for. How do we flourish? Crouch answers with a paradox: we have to be strong and weak.

Strength comes when we embrace the authority we have as divine image-bearers, people made in the image of God.

Weakness is embraced when we admit we’re mortal, vulnerable, that we need God and community.

The two go together. Strong and weak. Crouch writes, “We are meant to experience more and more of the full authority intended for human beings, which can never be separated from the full vulnerability–the ultimate meaningful risk–of entrusting ourselves to one another and to our Creator.”

This two by two grid illustrates the dynamics at play:

We can try to control everything. High levels of authority without vulnerability leads to exploitation.

We can play it safe. Unwillingness to be vulnerable and rejecting authority leads to withdrawal.

We can undergo suffering–or inflict it. We know of people who are vulnerable but who lack authority, either because of marginalization, exploitation, oppression, or other causes. These people aren’t flourishing. They are suffering.

But cultures that encourage members to embrace the authority while also risking vulnerability–these communities can flourish, and they often do. Why? They are led by the strong and weak.

Crouch writes:

Leadership does not begin with a title or position. It begins the moment you are more concerned about others’ flourishing than you are about your own. It begins when you start to ask how you might help create and sustain the conditions for others to increase their authority and vulnerability together. In a world where many people are simply withdrawn into safety, where other are imprisoned in the most extreme vulnerability, where other pursue their own unaccountable authority, anyone who seek trust flourishing is already, in many senses, a leader.

Crouch adds, “Leader…are no longer looking primarily to help themselves but to spend themselves on others.”

Leaders give. They risk. They embrace their gifts, and their authority. They build. They have the confidence the work can be done.

We need leaders. Are you concerned about the welfare of others? Do you want to see others flourish?

Then we need you.