Deep in the annals of Semitic history is a lesson…

Effective leadership arises in a three-phase process that encompasses, though not in any particular order:
~willingness to take corrective action
~benevolence
~anointing.
Let’s take a look at an example from ancient history.
Abraham, the patriarch of Semitic cultures, had a nephew who had gotten himself  into a bad situation. There was a war going on between tribal kings in the valley of Siddim, an area in Israel that is now covered by the Dead Sea. A powerful warlord named Chedorlaome had gathered some lesser kings; together they went on a conquering spree. After mounting an assault on the town of Sodom, Chedorlaome’s forces pillaged their settlement and took some prisoners, one of whom was Lot, Abraham’s nephew.. A fugitive from Lot’s camp managed to escape, and reported to Abraham that his nephew had been taken away. The patriarch then assembled a band of his trained men, pursued the marauding armies, defeated them, and rescued Lot.

Thus did Abraham’s willingness to take corrective action fulfill the first condition of his subsequent role as patriarch of the Semitic peoples.
After this assertive mission of deliverance, Abraham found himself surrounded by a group of thankful people (including his nephew Lot) and a collection of recovered goods.
One beneficiary of Abraham’s military prowess, the king of Sodom, offered all the booty to Abe as a reward. But the benevolent leader was satisfied with the mere rescue of his nephew and, presumably, the restoration of peace and justice. So he declined the grateful king’s offer. Abraham’s selfless distributions of windfall resources that might have been used toward his own enrichment were instead given to the recovering refugees.

Among those gathered at the occasion of Abraham’s victorious return from battle was Melchizedek, the king of Salem (now called Jerusalem), who was also a priest, or person having spiritual enablement. Melchizedek pronounced a blessing on Abraham, and Abraham, discerning the spiritual authority imparted in that blessing, bequeathed a tenth of the captured goods to Melchizedek for his priestly use. Abraham  then went on to become, you know, a pretty important guy in the history of world events.

Thus was leadership legitimatized in an ancient civilization in a two-pole balance of power between  the king and the priest.

Parallel to this in secularized 21st-century democracy is the sharing of governance that is initiated when our Chief Justice administers the oath of office to the President, whose agenda is determined by a third authoritative source, the people’s Congress.

Legitimacy requires, then: willingness to take corrective action, benevolence, and anointing. In our modern scheme of bestowing authority, the anointing ( legitimacy to govern), is now understood to originate among the people collectively, instead of some priest or pope. In the American manifestation of that principle, the President’s anointing to lead is derived, according to the Constitution, from the consent of the governed instead of, say, coronation by a religious leader.

In the confusion of  18-century emerging democratique republicanism , it’s a lesson not fully comprehended by Napolean, who impulsively grabbed the crown of French emperorship from pope Pius VII. Bonaparte’s eagerness to embody the new zeitgeist propelled him into a presumptuous grabbing of power that ultimately led to his demise and the decline of French hegemony.
120 years later, Hitler made a similarly disastrous presumption, although his delusion about the source of legitimacy went much deeper than Napolean’s. But that’s a different historical lesson.

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