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Two Extremes of Leadership — Part I

The Ahab Extreme

"Are you the king of Israel or not?" Jezebel demanded..." — I Kings 21:7

Partnerships are tricky. In theory, aligning with someone else to get things done is a fantastic idea. In practice there are lots of potholes, pitfalls, and personality challenges that "partners" must overcome. And once a partnership is legalized (formalized), the challenges increase.

Ahab, King of Israel, chose the wrong partner — Jezebel. Jezebel influenced Ahab to build idols, take land that was not his, and to do more evil than any other king. This partnership was considered evil to God ultimately because Ahab gave in to a set of ideas, values, and behaviors that were inconsistent with the governing principles that could sustain his kingship. Eventually, Ahab would lean on Jezebel to solve his problems. Instead of taking the lead, he abdicated his responsibility.

Abdication of responsibility is one extreme of leadership. It results in a certain passivity. Instead of taking the necessary steps to move the group forward, the leader's vision gets usurped by their partner's vision, and things remain the same or deteriorate.

This happened to Adam in the garden. He gave into the serpent’s vision because he abdicated responsibility by allowing the serpent to speak with Eve in the first place. We know how the story ends.

In 1999, NASA and its partner Lockheed Martin, lost an orbiter and $125M. There were two teams of engineers working on the project to get the orbiter to Mars. One team used the metric system while the other used the American system of measurement. This prevented the proper transfer of coordinates from a spacecraft team in Denver to a lab in California. Because these partners were not on the same page, the orbiter disintegrated in space. This could have been avoided if the leaders would have taken responsibility to ensure that the measurement systems were compatible.

These examples underline the need for leaders to accept responsibility. Here are a few characteristics of responsible leaders:

  • They avoid formal partnerships that limit their control of their core responsibility.

  • They refuse passivity, especially in tough times.

  • They work to change the status quo, in order to get the group moving in the direction of their vision.

  • They avoid the "Ahab Extreme" of abdication.

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