“Postcolonial leadership?” as the title of the article was deliberately written with a question mark. I do not think there exists such a concept as postcolonial leadership. One should rather refer to “leadership in a postcolonial context”, with South Africa as a case in point. What must therefore be determined, is: Firstly, what is meant by colonialism? The answer to this will also help in understanding postcolonialism better. Secondly, we must try to ascertain what the challenges are that this context poses to theological leadership. And thirdly, what leadership competencies does a young generation of theologians need to confront these challenges?
Colonialism can be described as a force that continues to marginalise the most vulnerable citizens for the benefit and economic wealth of the least vulnerable. Some critics even consider globalisation as contributing to colonialism. According to Sharp (2012:422), however, postcolonialism “denotes a time that historically follows many movements toward independence of former colonies. It also criticizes novel forms of colonialism that endure.” Under decolonisation I do not understand the destruction of Western knowledge, but its decentralisation. It would then become merely one way of knowing rather than the way of knowing. It enables the creation of new knowledge spaces (Le Grange 2016:1).
It is within this postcolonial context that my colleagues and I participate in teaching and cultivating a new generation of theological leaders. In preparing our students for their professional life we do have the further responsibility to help them understand the different challenges they are presently facing. Among these challenges we find the following: 1. The ecological challenges, which are enormous if the population growth and the impact of the consumer culture on our natural resources are kept in mind. 2. The ethnopolitical challenges, which relate to the fact that we live a country with a rich diversity of cultures and languages. 3. The unequal distribution of income contributes to the economic challenges our leadership is facing. The difference in the quality of education between schools in various parts of the country has a huge impact on admission to tertiary education and is a direct consequence of the history of unequal education. 4. All of this points towards the educational challenges we are facing. 5. Then, if one keeps in mind that 80 per cent of South Africa’s population indicated in the last census that they belong to the Christian faith, one finds it astonishing that we are confronted with such enormous ethical and moral challenges in our country. 6. One can no longer imagine a world without cell phones, laptops and an internet connection. Our dependence on these modes of communication also gives enormous power to the persons in charge of these networks. In the light of this one becomes aware of the enormous electronic and cyber-physical challenges that the 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) is posing.
After explaining some of the challenges a new generation of theologians are facing in the South African context, we are in the position to define some competencies that are needed to address these challenges. According to Shavelson (2010), competencies can be broadly defined as “a combination of cognitive, affective, motivational, volitional and social dispositions that form the basis for performance”.
As an organising principle for developing a competency framework, the three meta-categories from Jack Barentsen (2016:272) were adopted and translated into competencies. A fourth competency was added. The four competencies can be classified as follows:
- core competencies that qualify theological leaders
- competencies that focus on relationships within the faith community
- competencies that focus on relationships with those outside the faith community
- competencies that focus on the environment.
The core competencies of theological leadership relate to tasks that guarantee the core of this form of leadership and consequently concentrate on the religious and theological identity of the community. It is evident that identity leadership plays a major role here. The following competencies can be distinguished: symbolic competency, spiritual competency and hermeneutical competency.
Whereas the core competencies are concerned with the identity of theological leadership, the focus now shifts towards competencies related to the maintenance, preservation and promotion of the faith community. Competencies focusing on matters within the religious community are the following: pastoral competency, visionary competency and reconciling competency.
Thus a religious community is grounded in its theological identity (core competencies) and is complemented by the care and maintenance of that community (competencies within the community). However, faith communities are embedded in specific societies that influence and define them. The third group of competencies is therefore directed at the public dimension of society. The competencies that focus on those outside the religious community are the following: communicative competency, innovative competency and entrepreneurial competency.
Planet earth ensures our continued existence, but we do not treat it well. If one reads the United Nations’ IPCC report on climate change (IPCC 2019), one realises in what deep trouble we are concerning the care for Mother Earth. In fact, the question even arises whether we should not put ecological competency right at the top of the list, because if our planet is exhausted, all the other competencies will not be needed anymore.
Leadership in Christian faith communities is inherently a spiritual matter and therefore leaders should not take lightly the power they have to influence others’ behaviour and actions. Therefore the idea of a spirituality of leadership is advanced in terms of which leaders must be open to guidance of the Holy Spirit, where the Spirit shapes and transforms us into the image of Christ.
The four sets of competencies can thus be summarised in the following way:
- The core competencies, which relate to a form of priestly listening, grounded in a spirituality of presence: Attending to others in their particularity within the presence of God.
- The internal competencies, which relate to a form of transforming leadership, grounded in a spirituality of servant leadership: Taking risks on behalf of the community to help them better embody its mission as a sign and witness of God’s self-giving love.
- The external competencies, which relate to a form of prophetic discernment, grounded in a spirituality of discernment: Helping others to hear God’s Word in the particular circumstances of their lives and world.
- The ecological competency, which relates to a form of wise judgement grounded in a spirituality of sagely wisdom: Guiding others in how to perform earthkeeping.
Keywords: colonialism; competencies; decolonisation; leadership; postcolonial leadership; postcolonialism