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The Death of Elitist Leadership

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  • Thom Rainer
By Thom S. Rainer, Christian Post Contributor
July 3, 2012|9:02 am

It is indeed an understatement, but it's true. Leadership is changing. Some point to technological advances as the great equalizer. Others say it is the social media facet of technology that is key. Still others point to the Millennial generation and their changing expectations of leaders and life in general. Some would say that the failure of political and business leaders led to the change.

There is undoubtedly truth in all explanations, and there are probably many more explanations to the changing role of and demands on leaders. The overall thrust of the changes is that elitist leadership is dead; at the very least it is dying. The demand for greater transparency, honesty, and just plain decent behavior has never been higher.

Elitist leaders will not survive this new era. And though this new open leadership model has its challenges, the move away from elitist leadership is a positive development for our organizations and society. Look at some of the implications.

Leaders Can No Longer Assume They Are the Smartest People in the Room

Just when a leader thinks he has put in his time and efforts toward his leadership status, some young guy or gal comes along who revolutionizes our organization or our world. Humility demands that we recognize there are others smarter than we are. If not, we leaders could really be embarrassed.

Leaders Can No Longer Make Unquestioned Demands

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Elitist leaders act like they are generals in the military. They bark orders, make demands, and expect no pushback. After all, what the leader says is the way it will be. No more. Every significant decision a leader makes today is scrutinized, questioned, and evaluated. There is no such thing in our world today as unquestioned leadership (unless you belong to a cult).

Leaders Can No Longer Be Protected from Criticism

Elitist leaders surround themselves with sycophants. If you are not a yes-man or a yes-woman, you are removed from the leadership circle, and perhaps from the organization. When criticism comes to the organization of the elitist leader, he or she makes certain someone else takes the blame. That era of leadership is virtually over. The technology and Internet revolution means that anyone can criticize a leader anytime. If someone desires to avoid criticism as a life goal, he or she should avoid leadership roles at all times.

Leaders Can No Longer Be Cloaked in Secrecy and Privacy

I enjoy reading biographies of leaders of the 60s and 70s, the years of my childhood and adolescent. What amazes me is how many of their indiscretions were never made public. Most of them would not have lasted a month in today's very public scrutiny. Elitist leadership allowed for indiscretions, bad business decisions, and just weird behavior to be swept under the rug. Not so today. Leaders are under the microscope every day.

It's Tough Leadership, But It's the Right Leadership

Elitist leadership is easier, but it's not good leadership. The reality is that no leaders in the years ahead will be able to function in that manner. And though there are challenges and problems with the high level of scrutiny a leader must endure today, the trend is healthy.

We are indeed moving toward more open and transparent leadership.

We should celebrate, not mourn, the death of elitist leadership.

How has the new era of leadership changed how you lead?

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
 

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