Author Malcolm Gladwell gives a fine 12-min talk on Legitimacy on Q. What legitimizes an action he asks? He suggests that leaders need to recognize that a good and even truth-filled idea might not be the same as a legitimate one. He leads me to suggest that how leaders carry out ideas is as important as the ideas themselves. Legitimacy gives you a nail upon which to hang your truth using tools to decide on administration of ideas. Gladwell says the big three tests are:
Is it Respectful?
Is it Fair?
Is it Trustworthy?
But this begs the question – what constitutes fair? From whose perspective is something deemed fair? Yikes, the can is open and the worms are running amok.
In this years’ US Presidential race it is becoming glaringly obvious that it is not ideas or policy that should or will determine the nominees but our perception of who will better administer the policies as leader. How will each idea measure up to Gladwell’s trio of respect, fairness and trust? Just how far will expediency bend and melt down these pillars.
Truth be told, in Jesus we see modelled a King whose ideas were metered out with surprise moves and unexpected words. Actually His words alarmed the fairness pundits of his time. He wasn’t trusted, respected or deemed fair by the presiding mores of society. He washed feet – respectfully but oddly. He visited with tax collectors – a respectful but weird move. He died on a cross – unfair but powerful. No pattern. A leader bent on loving a community with whatever it took to demonstrate that love. Led by the Spirit and not rules of legitimacy.
So legitimacy is tough if, even our Jesus, was seen as illegitimate in all senses of the word.
A life that stays true to the work of the Spirit and the Word becomes then so essential so that our good ideas are chiselled into action using the tools of the kingdom of God and not the paintbrush of this world.
“...legitimacy is based on three things. First of all, the people who are asked to obey authority have to feel like they have a voice--that if they speak up, they will be heard. Respect. Second, the law has to be predictable. Trustworthy. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today. And third, the authority has to be Fair. It can't treat one group differently from another.” Malcolm Gladwell - David and Goliath