Saturday, April 24, 2010

Meritocracy at Its Worst

Wikipedia defines meritocracy as "a system of a government or other organization wherein appointments are made and responsibilities assigned to individuals based upon demonstrated talent and ability (merit)" Or simply put, the leader is someone who is one notch higher than whom he leads. Then the million dollar question is what would be the quality of leadership when those who select the leader are many notches below average human abilities.

The Bible has an excellent example in this regard. It is a scenario that prophet Isaiah describes if the enemy attacks the country of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. If that happens, the leaders of the nation will be killed. Commanders of the army, the king and his ministers and the cream of the society will be deported. This is what actually happened. Prophet Jeremiah who was much junior to Isaiah and started his career after Isaiah died, lived to witness what Isaiah had prophesied:

"The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. Of those still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men, and seven royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land and sixty of his men who were found in the city.
Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah.
There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed. So Judah went into captivity, away from her land. This is the number of the people Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile: in the seventh year, 3,023 Jews;
in Nebuchadnezzar's eighteenth year, 832 people from Jerusalem;
in his twenty-third year, 745 Jews taken into exile by Nebuzaradan the commander of the imperial guard. There were 4,600 people in all." (Jeremiah 52:24-30).

Isaiah could foresee such a situation where the nation lost its talented people and think-tanks on one fine morning. It is like the entire cabinet and the legislators of the nation, artists and thinkers all die in one day! In such a situation people were desperately looking for leadership and found someone by applying the principles of meritocracy. This is the scene that prophet Isaiah describes.

"A man will seize one of his brothers at his father's home, and say, "You have a cloak, you be our leader; take charge of this heap of ruins!" But in that day he will cry out, "I have no remedy. I have no food or clothing in my house; do not make me the leader of the people." (Isaiah 3:6-7).

In a dynasty, the crown prince has to wait for years for the death of the reigning monarch to ascend to the throne. In a democracy, one has to win the support of the people and majority in the house of elected representatives to be the leader of a nation. In some cases the government has to be overthrown through a coup in order for someone to come to power. Here the people catch the man just because he is the only person who has an overcoat (others may only have under clothing) to become their leader. That is the only merit he has in this reign of meritocracy. While people vie for leadership positions, this man would run away from it. Let us clap for him. Unlike many of our leaders, he knows his limits!

There is a saying that people get a leader they deserve. We don't have to explore the skies for the answer to the question why there is such a paucity of good leadership in Christian institutions and churches. The answer is just around us. It is the reign of mediocrity, and who are relatively less mediocre has elevated to leadership positions. Thus the reign of mediocrity goes on.

Are you frustrated with the quality of leadership that you are under? The answer to the problem is to create a pool of people quite unlike the leaders that we have now. May be in future when we look for someone to lead we may find someone who is not only well-dressed but may have much more to offer.



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