Friday, May 11, 2012

Leading Lions, and Octopus

Leadership is on my mind these days because I recently attended the Asian Pacific Islander Women's Leadership Conference (aka Conference with the World's Longest Title EVER) in California. I began a post but it turned out to be kind of serious and personal. And we can't have any of that here! So I moved it over to my other blog. I'll finish that one later.

So I'm going to write about Disney villains instead. Cuz, you know, that's the next place my mind goes when I think about leadership. Naturally.

The majority of Disney villains are motivated by power. They long to call the shots, to rule over other people and things. They want their preferences to take priority over everyone else's.

In other words, they want to lead.

I have a feeling Ursula, Jafar or Scar would never say it that way.
I just noticed that they're all smiling. haha.
These villains are not unlike us. The motivation to lead is rooted in how people were made. We were created to rule over every living creature and to have dominion over the seas, skies and land. Inherent in who we are is the desire as well as ability to influence the world we live in. Our propensity for leadership is good.

But it's also our greatest downfall. The fall of humankind came as a result of desiring to "be like God"--to have a  knowledge and power that only God can or should possess. Throughout history, the worst kind of evil happens when leaders abuse their power.

And so, Disney villains are really just human. (Even the ones that are lion and octopus.) They embody the extreme of what exists in all of us: the ambition to gain power, and the sinful tendency to abuse it.

While Ursula and Jafar both cause much destruction in their brief rise to power, perhaps the most evident example of corrupt leadership is Scar's reign as king of Pride Rock. His partnership with the hyenas leads to starving animals and a ravaged land. Even when all the herds move on, he refuses to admit there's nothing left. His pride and stubbornness leave him sitting in a cave, hungry and miserable. I highly doubt that's what he had in mind when he killed his brother and sent his nephew away.

Most of us will never go to such extremes to attain a position of influence. But we're not exempt from the damage that can occur when we think only of ourselves or what we can get out of being a leader. Maybe we long to prove our worth, either to ourselves or to parents, friends, or colleagues. Perhaps we like receiving the attention or praise that comes with our role. In some situations our ambition is motivated by financial reward.

I take these Disney villains as a warning to check my motivation for leadership. As I've had time and space to explore my desire to lead, I find that the longing for glory can easily outweigh my desire to do good and help others. It's in these moments when I'm thankful that God, in his grace, can still use me. Otherwise, I wouldn't be too far off from having a starved Pride Rock on my hands.

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