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America’s Leadership Crisis

The world needs leadership.  America needs leadership.  The church needs leadership.  On these points there is very little debate.  But America is increasingly less satisfied with leaders in every aspect of life.

Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership annually produces A National Study of Confidence in Leadership.  It reveals that there is a crisis of leadership in America, and the crisis is getting worse.  According to their research, “79% believe the United States will decline as a nation unless we get better leaders.”  So what do Americans think of their leaders?

The main component of this report is the annual National Leadership Index (see the 2007 report here).  This index rates American’s confidence in the leadership of various sectors.  Here are some of the results:

  • Americans are most confident in the military and medical sectors.  These are the only two sectors in which Americans have more than a moderate amount of confidence.
  • Americans are least confident in the press, a trend that is three years strong.  Other leaders at the bottom of the barrel: executive branch government and congress.
  • When it comes to the “religious” sector, Americans have less than a moderate mount of confidence in their leadership.  Out of the twelve sectors studied, confidence in “religious” leadership was sixth (behind military, medical, Supreme Court, education, nonprofit/charities).

This type of study was not done 50-100 years ago, but my guess is that there would be a steady decrease in the confidence of “religious” leadership over the past century.  A lot has been done to damage this, namely the anti-authoritarian 60s, fraud by televangelists, and abuse in the Catholic Church.  But more than anything, it may be simply an aspect of our post-Christian culture.

I think this can serve as a part of an increasing wake-up call for Christian leaders to lead and lead well.  We can impact the world around us through our leadership.  Of course, we must keep in mind what true Christian leadership is according to the model of Jesus Christ: “I have not come to be served but to serve.”

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