By Felipe Assis | President of City to City Miami
Just as every computer has an operating system, every culture has an operating principle. And when it come to cultural operating principles, there are only two options. One is informed by power, the other one by grace. The gospel-centered leadership culture is informed by grace while all other cultures are informed by power.
The latter part was Michel Foucault’s theory, a theory he learned from Frederich Nietzsche. The French Postmodern philosopher believed that all leadership cultures flowed from an innate desire present in all hearts (and consequently in all institutions) to exercise power over others. Foucalt wrote…
“The strategic adversary is fascism... the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behavior, the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.”
There’s an interesting case study about this in the Gospel of Mark. In Mark 10:35-45 Jesus finds his disciples contending for power. They inquired, “who should be at the places of honor once Jesus establishes his kingdom on Earth?” Disgusted by the operating principle of that discussion, Jesus kindly rebukes them:
“You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around,” he said, “and when people get a little power how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not to be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for many who are held hostage.” (MSG)
In other words, what Jesus is trying to explain to the disciples is that there is a stark contrast between his leadership culture, which was the culture he had come to establish, and the other cultures present in the world. His culture’s central operating principle was grace. He was the Son of Man and it was not required that he serve, but he had voluntarily taken upon himself the posture not of a lord but of a servant. That’s grace.
In Jesus’ universe the central operating principle is love. In fact, before there was any thing, before power was manifested in the work of creation, there was love. The Father has always existed with the Son and the Spirit in a community where its culture is informed by love.
The disciples were trying to bring the world’s culture into The Kingdom and Jesus warns them, “it’s not going to be that way with you.”
Is it “that way” with you? Is it “that way” with your organization? What has informed your culture? Grace or power?
In my next post, I will discuss what each cultural operating principle produces. These can be taken as visible markers to help you diagnose the central operating principle of your leadership culture.