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Guest: Limited Access

Joy and Matthew Steem

Flickr photo is licensed under CC BY 2.0 I have a friend who was once viewing an article on Mother Theresa. Somehow, the advertisements on the webpage were not set to “Catholic approved,” since, alongside the picture of the now saint, was an ostentatious full screen ad for Plan B. Seriously. It was a perfect example of “what’s wrong with this picture.”  Recently, as I was merrily skipping/clicking links that looked interesting, I came to a well-known religious leadership publication. Maybe it was the devil, because he knew it would assuredly annoy me, but the thing my eye caught under the name of the journal was the two words placed next to each other. It looked like this:


Now, I know this sounds prideful, but as someone who has a handy prime college access, one thing I rarely see when spending time in online journals is “limited access.” Mine isn't limited, it’s full—at least in academic journals. And yet here I was being called a guest, with “limited access.” I was instantly offended. Then I felt guilty about being offended. Here is the thing though, nobody wants to be knowingly excluded to the outer regions of power. This got me to thinking.

I have for a while wondered over the seeming insatiable lust which seems to be incited over positions of leadership. Maybe “lust” is too strong a word; perhaps positions of leadership are more of a thing “craved” than lusted over ... but that would be a hard call. It doesn't matter what setting these leadership positions are in either: be they at a university, church, community, in politics or whatever, the desire to be in a location of leadership seems to be fairly intense. As if to confirm this, more than ever before, I am seeing leadership courses being taught at public libraries, colleges, universities, and even churches. They are popping up everywhere. You can take them in-class, online, or over Skype—whatever method is best for your busy schedule.  And such courses fetch good money, too. If you’re worried about your job, don't; you can even get a Masters in Leadership while working full time!

Now, I am not dissing people in positions of authority at all: we need profs and pastors and presidents and prime ministers. Neither am I picking on leadership courses, from what I hear, they bring in much needed funding for places of education. However, I am curious: why the upsurge in interest over leadership? I wonder if the interest is driven by advertisers—like the craze over teeth whitening products. Or is it driven by average Janes or Joes who are suddenly realizing that they would like a title or a position of respect?

Here is the question churning inside my head though: are people becoming more curious about getting into leadership because they feel that it is the primary way they will actually be heard? I.e. that the only way to be listened to, in whatever place they happen to be in, is to be a leader? I realize that there are a few more possibilities than that, but I do wonder if being heard is one of the main reasons.

And if that’s the case, isn't it saying something about our culture? Like, maybe we haven't been willing to pay attention—literally!—to people around us because we assume they don’t have something of worth to say? And if we all think that, then one seemingly reasonable way to get other people to listen to us is not to be an everybody, but a somebody—specifically a leader. After all—leaders have to/must be listened to, right? Again, I am not implying that those in leadership don't have worthy things to say, I just wonder how many times I have contributed to another person not feeling listened to, and thus unwittingly encouraged him or her to seek more formal routes to not only speak, but ensure being heard.