Saturday, March 22, 2008

George Washington vs. Simon Bolivar Leaders

I've been reading this interesting book, just the title makes it intriguing:

Samson and the Pirate Monks: Calling Men to Authentic Brotherhood by Nate Larkin.

My boss gave it to me as a possible resource for a men's small group I'm helping to start. A guy in our church approached me and wanted to know if I was interested in starting something for guys - I would do a morning group, and he would do an evening group, and we would go over the same material so if someone missed the morning group, they could go to the evening group and vice versa. Now, if you know me, you know that: 1) I'm already pretty busy, so starting a group doesn't usually fall on my radar, and 2) I'm a little leery of men's groups in the first place, because I'm not a big fan of Wild At Heart, what it means to be a "real man", "let's go out and hunt a fourteen point buck for Jesus" type of stuff. But I like this guy so I'm willing to do it, especially if it reaches men in this community.

Anyway, I'm not sure I'll be using this book, at least not yet, but it was interesting reading.

One of the illustrations he uses in this book is the difference between how George Washington led, and how Simon Bolivar, who started up several colonies/countries in South America led. It was especially interesting to me based on my experience with senior ministers during my time in Arizona and in Ohio. Here is what he writes:

"Washington, of course, is revered in the United States as the father of his country. Bolivar tried to duplicate Washington's success in South America, but failed.

On December 23, 1783, George Washington made the greatest single statement of his long political career by resigning his commission as commander in chief of the Continental army. This simple act of humility stunned the Western world. Washington, who had almost single-handedly held the fractious colonies together during the Revolutionary War, was easily the most trusted man in America. Grateful throngs called on Congress to proclaim him king. Other voices begged Washington to set up a military regime, believing that only a commander of his stature could create the stability necessary for a successful transition to democracy...

But that wasn't the end of Washington's career. Four years later he played a leading role in the constitutional convention in Philadelphia, and in 1789, the new Electoral College unanimously elected him president. Washington discharged his duties brilliantly, operating as the consummate player/coach. Well aware of his limitations and unthreatened by the genius of others, he surrounded himself with men whose intellectual talents were greater than his own, men such as James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and John Adams. Compelled by the force of Washington's example, these men harnessed their competing egos and worked as a it turned out, George Washington became "the father of his country" by refusing the role.

In 1783, the same year Washington resigned his commission at Annapolis, Simon Jose Antonio de la Santisima Trinidad Bolivar was born in the Spanish province of Venezuela. By age nine, he was an orphan. By 1799, the year Washington died, the passionate young man had become a firebrand for liberty, forcefully arguing that the South American colonies should declare their independence from Spain. When he marched into Caracas at the head of a liberating army in August of 1813, Bolivar accepted the title of "liberator" from a grateful populace and assumed political dictatorship. He went on to lead successful revolutions against Spanish rule in Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. In fact, he served as president of two different countries during his lifetime, Colombia and Peru. When Upper Peru was liberated in 1825, the new nation named itself Bolivia in his honor. Bolivar personally drafted a constitution for his namesake, proposing a weak legislature and a strong president chosen for life.

By this time, Bolivar's power extended from the Caribbean to the border of Argentina, but his rule as not peaceful. The nations he had founded were wracked by a series of revolts and civil wars. On September 25, 1828, a group of young officers invaded the presidential palace and tried to assassinate him. The attempt failed, but more plots followed as competing generals jockeyed for power. He was denounced everywhere. Finally in May of 1830, Bolivar agreed to leave South America and retire to Europe. He never made the trip however. He died of tuberculosis six months later in Santa Marta, Colombia.

Despite his giftedness as a military commander, Simon Bolivar failed miserably as a political leader because he was never content to be a brother. He always needed to be the daddy. Although he employed the language of team play in his speeches, his actions showed that he never really trusted anyone but himself. In the end, it was all about Simon. It's no coincidence that that the nations he founded are plagued by political instability to this day."



I could definitely see the similarities in leadership style between Simon Bolivar and some of the leaders I have worked for in the recent past. I have so much more I could say at this point - like pointing out how certain leaders I have worked for didn't put anyone into leadership around them until 7-10 years after they planted their church, and how I heard interesting things while I worked for them, like "it's my way or the highway", and "you go toe to toe with me, I'll win every time", but I'll refrain for now. I did think the last paragraph really summed up the problem with these type of leaders: (1) Always needed to be the daddy; (2) never trusts anyone but themselves; (3) it was all about them. If Simon Bolivar leadership doesn't work in leadership of countries, why do we seem to think that it will work in our churches? And better yet, why do the other supposed "leaders" of these churches let the head person become a Bolivar type leader?


Rochelle said...

Good questions. I don't know the answers. It is something to be aware of...egos and arrogance all in the name of the church. Might not be a bad topic actually for your men's group. I will say this..I don't think that aspect of personality always is obvious until you actually work with that person or have some type of close interaction. That was my experience.

Platypus5 said...

I think that is somewhat harsh of you to call Simon what you did. Remember, it is possible to argue that because English Rule of the colonies was for the most part less exploitative than Spanish rule could have had a dramatic effect on the political environments.

The other truth is that Simon admired the ideas of the American Revolution. He visited the United States and wrote that he had seen a case of "rational liberty." To me, that implies that he felt that the people of South America would not be able to handle the amount of political freedom given by Washington to the Americans. (Of the United States, that is.)

G3nsteiN said...

I don't try to make any excuses for bolivar I'm Latin American, he gave the countries he free to his fellow country men. But instead the tried to kill him once and one his most beloved friends was killed in Colombia (Jose Antonio Jose de sucre), Narino one of the grat polical leaders was imprisoned and tortured the Latin Americans political class are just scum they have destroy what bolivar, sucre , Narino and everyone with good intentions tried to achieve it's just sad. Sorry for my English friend.

Latinaforever said...

None of you are qualify to talk about one of the greatest man that ever lived!