What I learnt from Sophia Loren

18 03 2007

sophia.jpgSophia Loren once famously stated that beauty is 50% fact and 50% what you think beauty is. In a similar way, leadership is 50% who you really are and 50% what others think you are. Most leaders are completely aware of this and work hard at presenting themselves in a way that reflects well on themselves and their plans. They in effect work hard at building a myth around their leadership. At its worst, the truth is carefully manipulated to reflect a more positive image. In the last election campaign here in New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark was presented in large electioneering posters heavily airbrushed as it would seem that we expect our Prime Minister to be devoid of wrinkles, crooked teeth or blemished skin.

In a similar vein I have received inside information that the following image of John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia is going to be used for the Federal Election due this year:


As can be seen, this vastly improved image makes him look way more beautiful than he is. My hope is that the voting public realize that his image has been manipulated.

Part of what feeds this habit of a leader crafting their image, is the completely unreal expectations followers have of who their leader is. We expect so much from our leaders and when they don’t live up to our mythical model we lash out, we retreat, we cultivate cynicism, we find another leader to lavish our unreality on.

The problem is two-fold: Followers demand unreality and leaders are tempted to present themselves in a less than truthful way.

2 Timothy 4: 3-4 notes,

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Both leaders and followers should demand truth. As Christians this is not just about being truthful, but also involves being immersed in the Bible.

How does this affect my leadership style? First and foremost I believe in being transparent. Letting the people I work with know what I am thinking, and being open about my weaknesses. I work hard at communicating an honest and frank picture of who I am and what I am not.

I also believe in confronting problems rather than pretending they don’t exist.

And I am committed to reading the Bible and to endeavoring to answer the question: what is the Biblical approach with what I am doing? This is a work in progress. No instant results but a commitment to a process.

My belief is that solid Christian leadership is open and honest and deeply familiar with and influenced by the Scriptures.





2 responses

19 03 2007
Mark Illingworth

Right on Mark. On my tombstone I’d be happy if they wrote “This man was authentic” – which is another way of saying transparent. Actually the word “authentic” means in the greek “genuine”. I like the fact that it’s got “theo” meaning God in the middle of it. If I’m truly authentic then I’m genuinely reflecting God. Cool eh! 🙂

19 03 2007
Mark Brown

Love the connection Mark! Being fully me as God intended. Reading your comment reminds me that I miss your sermons.

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