Leadership in the 21st Century

From In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen. The noted professor who taught at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard moved to be the priest of a mentally and physically handicapped residential ministry.

“These broken, wounded, and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of my relevant self – the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things – and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments.
I am telling you all this because I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love…
Jesus’ first temptation was to be relevant: to turn stones into bread… (p.30)
Beneath all the great accomplishments of our time there is a deep current of despair. While efficiency and control are the great aspirations of our society, the loneliness, isolation, lack of friendship and intimacy, broken relationships, boredom, feelings of emptiness and depression, and a deep sense of uselessness fill the hearts of millions of people in our success-oriented world.
And the cry that arises from behind all of this decadence is clearly: ‘Is there anybody who really cares? Is there anybody who wants to stay home for me? Is there anybody who wants to be with me when I am not in control, when I feel like crying? Is there anybody who can hold me and give me a sense of belonging? Feeling irrelevant is a much more general experience than we might think when we look at our seemingly self-confident society.
It is here that the need for a new Christian leadership becomes clear. The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter of success, and to bring the light of Jesus there. (p.33-35)

Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, (New York: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1989).

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