Tag Archives | community

Ethical Leadership | Walter Earl Fluker

The cover of Fluker's Ethical LeadershipEthical Leadership was written to an America in crisis. In 2009, the date of publication, Walter Earl Fluker lamented a nation involved in “two costly wars; struggling with financial crisis precipitated by unscrupulous ethical practices on Wall Street; recovering from a presidential campaign that degenerated into character assassination based on race, religion, and unresolved cultural wars” (vii). The following years have only seen the issues grow more severe. We are in desperate need of ethical leadership.

Ethical leadership is the successful navigation of two worlds: lifeworlds and systemworlds.

“Lifeworlds” refers to the commonplace, everyday traffic of life where people meet and greet one another, where common values and presuppositions about order and the world are held. “Systemworlds” refers to the vast, often impersonal bureaucratic systems dominated by money and power (economics and politics and the various structures of communications and technology), which are frequently at odds with the pedestrian traffic of lifeworlds. (7)

A leader navigates the intersection of these two worlds through three ethical practices which have corresponding dimensions (viii) and are each marked by three virtues (130):

  1. Character  is the personal realm marked by integrity, empathy, and hope.
  2. Civility is the societal realm marked by reverence, respect, and recognition.
  3. Community is the spiritual realm marked by courage, justice, and compassion.

This three-times-three matrix forms “The Ethical Leadership ModelTM” which Fluker fleshes out by drawing on the work of Howard Washington Thurman and Martin Luther King Jr. along with a variety of voices from the black church.

On the positive side, Ethical Leadership is a thoughtful elucidation of many key virtues. Fluker’s selection and categorization was often thought provoking. You might expect reverence to be a spiritual virtue, but he explains it with respect to civility. Conversely, he explains the spiritual value of courage where I would have assumed it to be a personal virtue.

Unfortunately, two features took away from the value of the book. First, the selection and categorization of virtues seemed arbitrary. It is uncertain why he chose some virtues and ignored others. Second, his writing style didn’t suit the subject matter. He wrote about these academic issues like a preacher would preach. There were few concise sentences. If one term was sufficient, two were better, and three were preferred. This style undermined clarity and added (unnecessarily) to the length of the book.

The “The Ethical Leadership ModelTM” developed by Fluker is still a timely message, but it would be better experienced in a live conference than a book.


Fluker, Walter Earl. Ethical Leadership: The Quest for Character, Civility, and Community. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009.

Administrative Notice

Hi everyone,

I’m on holidays this week, and didn’t have the opportunity to prepare two entries last week.  The third of seven announcements against Egypt will come next week.

While I’m blabbing about administrative stuff, please feel free to leave comments at the bottom of any of these entries.  Let’s do this together.

Thanks for reading,
Steve.

Ezekiel 28:1-10: The Pride

And I love when folks look right at me
and what I’m doing or have done,
And lay it on about how groovy I am
and that I’m looking grand.
And every single word makes me think I’ll live forever;
Never knowing that they probably won’t remember
what they said tomorrow,
Tomorrow I could be dead.
— 77s (“The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes and the Pride of Life”)

I’ve got another movie reference for you. Do you remember that scene in Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail where King Arthur encounters the black knight? It goes something like this:

Knight: None shall pass.
Arthur: I have no quarrel with you, good Sir Knight, but I must cross this bridge.
Knight: Then you shall die.
…(Arthur chops the knight’s left arm off)…
Arthur: Now stand aside, worthy adversary.
Knight: ‘Tis but a scratch.
Arthur: A scratch? Your arm’s off!
… (Arthur chops the knight’s remaining limbs off)…
Knight: Right. I’ll do you for that!
Arthur: You’ll what?
Knight: Come here!
Arthur: What are you going to do, bleed on me?
Knight: I’m invincible!
Arthur: You’re a loony.

That’s the image that came into my head when I read the first 10 verses of Ezekiel 28.  Tyre had decided that they were invincible. They considered themselves a god! After listing the nasty ways that God was going to destroy Tyre, Ezekiel indulges in this comedic barb:

They shall thrust you down to the Pit,
and you shall die a violent death
in the heart of the seas.
Will you still say, “I am a god,”
in the presence of those who kill you,
though you are but a mortal, and no god,
in the hands of those who wound.
(vv. 8-9, NRSV)

. . .

Humans have been wanting to be gods since just about the day we were created. Remember the serpent’s temptation to Eve? “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Genesis 3:4-5, NRSV). The temptation worked, and the same temptation has been plaguing humanity throughout history.

The expression, “give him an inch and he takes a mile” comes into play here. God molded Adam out of dirt.  (If you ever need a shot of humility, just remember that part of the story.) Then God breathed something of himself into the dirt and it came alive.  The expression used in Genesis for this is “God’s image” (1:26). All humanity was created in the image of God, and given charge of the rest of his creation—yet we were not satisfied.  There is still that nagging desire to be like God: to be God.

. . .

How has Tyre tried to be a god?  Her prince made three claims:

  1. He claims to be divine: “you have said, ‘I am a god’” (v. 2, NRSV). Tyre’s prince was not the first ruler to claim to be a god. The Egyptians were making those claims before Ezekiel’s time, and the Romans (among others) were claiming divinity centuries later. There is something in the nature of extreme power that twists the minds of the powerful.
  2. He claims divine authority: “I sit in the seat of the gods” (v. 2, NRSV). The seat of a god would be the place where that god dispenses judgment. The prince of Tyre has climbed up onto that throne.
  3. He claims divine intelligence: “you compare your mind with the mind of a god” (v. 2, NRSV).  The prince of Tyre is delusional. When you have a successful career, when you hold the very lives of everyone around you in your hand, and when your court continually praises your divinity, you might eventually begin to believe it.

. . .

Sure, most of us don’t walk around believing that we are gods in the all-powerful and wise sense of the term. That would land us a quick trip to the psych ward. Still, the old temptation pulls on us as we find ourselves acting like the god of our own worlds.

The Western exultation of individuality over community—the “I am a rock” attitude just plays into this deception. When we are our own person, unencumbered by the demands of community, it’s easy to start ordering our lives as if we were god. As if no one mattered but ourselves and our own desires.

. . .

One true God, thank you for breathing life into our mortal bodies. Remind us often that you are God and we are not, and deliver us from our own selfishness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

< Ezekiel 27:12-36 | Amassing Wealth

Ezekiel 28:11-19 | Adam Again >

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