The Three-Headed Monster Influencing Church Leadership Today
Groupthink, Consensus and Multiculturalism
I have spent the majority of my adult ‘leadership’ life living by the profound philosophy made popular by the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, who stated that “Consensus is the absence of Leadership.” Consensus is defined as “a general agreement about something: an idea or opinion that is shared by all the people in a group.” This observational statement struck a higher note of profundity in my undergraduate studies as I learned more about the phenomenon called “Groupthink.” Effective, solid, independent and worthy-of-following style of leadership is the dichotomy of Groupthink.
Monster #1 – Groupthink
Groupthink is defined as: a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints, by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.
The secular world is steering leader-thinking toward a ‘majority rule’ mentality – that if the majority believes a certain way – then leadership must need follow. However, ‘majority rule’ leadership, according to the mantra of Ms. Thatcher, isn’t always good “leadership.” In fact, she challenges this as any kind of leadership at all. In a Democracy, in a Representative form of Government, perhaps that’s an effective style – to appease the masses; however, when a leader is left to himself/herself to decide for the company, the church or the family – groupthink is an infection that can ultimately be dangerous.
There are several examples to choose from that could each serve as grounds, or proof cases, for Groupthink as the most pressing issue in Christian leadership today. Just think of how many times you’ve heard the phrase, “Everybody’s doing it….” Oftentimes, church leadership hears that line and feels the pressure of the Groupthink mentality.
Monster #2 – Multiculturalism
While it is my opinion that sound leadership is lacking in the cosmos of the day-to-day secular world, it is more profoundly so in the church! There is a tug on hearts, minds and the Politically Correct sensitivities of leadership today that leaves more and more leaders less on the island of individual thought, or even Holy Spirit-led thought, and more lumped into the mores of worldly and secular expectations.
Today’s leaders strive for the magic elixir known as inclusivity, driven by the pressure of political correctness. For example, the old tried and true philosophy of “the right person for the right job” has fallen prey to a society that has forsaken the logic, and the effectiveness, of that philosophy for a more contemporary quota of multiculturalism. “Multiculturalism centers on the thought in political philosophy about the way to respond to cultural and religious differences.”
Monster #3 – Consensus
Following closely on the coattails of groupthink – driven and coaxed by multiculturalism, and going full-circle – is the guilt- laden monster of consensus. Bearing with it the thought of following the masses – what do the people want? Remember the days of ‘Holy Laughter’? A time where people howled in the church aisles, barking like dogs, laughing uncontrollably, blaming it on the Holy Spirit, claiming He was doing a new work? Then more and more churches saw what was attracting members to “come see the new work that God is doing”… which became a mantra; and consensus thinking turned churches into circuses.
Leaders, who were allowing their churches to fall into this form of worship, were driven by guilt, being told that they were not allowing their congregation to let the Holy Spirit move them in ways that, ironically, the Bible had never taught or condoned.
Therein lies my hypothesis that the influence of Groupthink ideology, coupled with the social pressure of Multiculturalism, and the mentality that Consensus is appropriate leadership, is actually creating an issue that is stifling the individual leader and forcing leadership today into a social mold that is pressing in on all sides.
If leadership continues to bow to the three-headed monster of societally imposed pressures, there will be no need for leaders or leadership at all. Life will be “one for all, and all for one,” meaning that every individual should act for the benefit of the group, and the group should act for the benefit of each individual.
Consensus, Merriam-Webster definition
One for All, All for One, Wiktionary definition