Great Man Theory


Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Presbytery Leader
choward@glpby.org


In the 1940s, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted a series of experiments on African American children that would become known as “the doll tests.” Each child was given a set of four dolls which were identical except for their color. The children were then asked which doll they preferred. Most children preferred the white doll as opposed to a black doll. The children also attributed positive characteristics to the white doll. This demonstration of low self-esteem was strongly influenced by segregation. The supreme court case of Brown vs. the Board of Education used the doll test study as one of its reasons to strike down segregation and “separate but equal” statutes across the country.

In the book Leadership, General Stanley McChrystal, Jeff Eggers, and Jason Mangone write about the influence of Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle on the image of leadership. Carlyle created the Great Man theory. According to Carlyle “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” The authors of Leadership believe Carlyle’s erroneous notion of leadership being Male (and usually white) is with us today. They quote the New York Times in saying, “There are more CEOs named John than there are women in the top 1500 companies.” Then they write, “When people are asked to draw an effective leader, their sketch typically reflect male features, even when a woman is holding the pencil.”

When I was in seminary, I had a serious problem at my Pentecostal church, and I needed pastoral care. Rev. Deborah Block was teaching one of my classes and I asked her for an appointment. After sharing my problem, she provided excellent guidance. Afterward I said, “I can’t believe God sent me to a woman pastor for counseling, but now I see why.” I too was prejudiced against women in leadership. The “Great Man as Pastor” was placed into me from a young age. But my experience from that session with Deborah opened my eyes to my ignorance and how I’d been resisting the moving of the Holy Spirit.

The Gender Equality Task Force is doing excellent work to help us understand the unequal position of women and men in pastoral leadership in the presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy. They have come to the realization that congregations must discard the Great Man theory. The gift of women in leadership (and gifted women in leadership) is available to all congregations, no matter the size or geographic location. The future of the church is a future of diversity. Male and female pastoral leadership is required to take us into God’s vision for the church, and Giddings-Lovejoy.

Rev. Craig M. Howard

 

 

2 Responses to “Great Man Theory”

  1. Barbara Abbett on

    Thank you, Craig for this wonderful message. FDP has been and continues to be blessed by the gift of women in leadership.

    Reply

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