Our modern generation often displays a profound misunderstanding of the real nature of leadership. Our culture sometimes prefers to elevate entertainment idols or rhetorical phenoms to positions of leadership, regardless of their qualifications. We tolerate deeply flawed, immoral men as our leaders because they manage to accomplish some good or they can “bring people together.” We fail to count the cost of the ensuing long-term cultural rot when we tolerate immoral, unethical leaders who answer to no higher power than themselves.
This is not a modern problem. In January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, ushering in the Third Reich. Just two days later, a 26-year-old theology professor named Dietrich Bonhoeffer gave a radio address titled “The Younger Generation’s Altered Concept of Leadership.” Eric Metaxas describes in his book Bonhoeffer that the radio broadcast was disrupted before Bonhoeffer could finish — it is unclear whether Hitler’s henchmen were responsible — but it addressed, almost prophetically, the yearning of the younger Germans for the wrong qualities in a leader. Having been raised under the boot of the Weimar Republic, a society in which “religion” had replaced true Christianity, the youth sought an idealized version of a leader:
The group which produced him now sees him already bathed completely in the light of its ideals. It sees him, not in his reality but in his vocation. It is essential for the image of the Leader that the group does not see the face of the one who goes before, but sees him only from behind as the figure stepping out ahead. His humanity is veiled in his Leader’s form.