Leadership Horizons: Leaders overcome entropy - I

Superman, we are told, leaped tall buildings with a single bound.  The leotard-clad cape-swirling hero defied and overcame the law of gravity.

Leaders, who always knew people expected the super human from them, do the same:  they overcome entropy.

If they don’t, something may be lacking in their leadership skills, as was the case of a former American political leader. An aide described his boss this way:

“Lacking something [major] to do, he falls victim to entropy, which was always his biggest problem … unless he had a goal, he could never organize himself — and then entropy took over and he became sullen and disorganized and confused.”

Entropy, simply put, is the tendency of things to move from order to increasing disorder.  W.B. Yeats, in his poem, “The Second Coming,” described the descent into chaos:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned …

Usually, we think of entropy in terms of physics.  Entropy, however, affects everything—including organizations, the people who lead them and those are the members.

Entropy is the logical and natural result of humanity’s Fall. Everything is being sucked toward Hell, caught in the terrible vortex of spiritual gravity, created by human sin.

As things near Hell, they become, well, more hellish.  They are characterized by more and more chaos, which leads to decay, which leads to disintegration, which leads to spiritual death, which is Hell.

Unless something intervenes, there is no escape from entropy.

The Good News is that God intervened in Christ.  To be in Him is to be “rescued from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:13)

Sanctification is the process of reordering the human being.  While the outer person is decaying, in a state of entropy, the inner person is being renewed, going from strength to strength and glory to glory. (2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:16)

Entropy also affects organizations.  They are, after all, made up of fallen human beings.  Among the tasks of a leader is recognizing the signs of organizational entropy, developing plans to overcome it, and inspiring people to resist and overcome the downward pull and loss of momentum.

Organizations, churches, Bible study classes, companies, the space station and Sir Isaac Newton’s apple have a huge principle in common:  gravity.  They all decay, decline, disintegrate and die if leaders don’t pay attention to the effects of entropy.

To understand how entropy affects an organization—including your Bible study class—we’ll use the example of the orbital flight of the space station.

There are five stages in the decline of organizations, based on the space station model: (1) Liftoff Surge (LS Stage); (2) Orbital Path (OP Stage); (3) Orbital Decay (OD Stage); (4) Entropy (E Stage); (5) Free Fall (FF Stage).

LIFTOFF SURGE STAGE–This is the launch-point of a new ministry, organization or class.

  • Condition – An organization, including a Bible study class, is in Condition Green in its LS Stage, signaling to the leader to go forward.
  • Characteristics – The ministry of Jesus reveals characteristics of the LS Stage:
  • Vision – The leader of a crew launching the space station communicates the orbital destination of the craft and how to get it there.  In Luke 4, Jesus casts the vision for His earthly ministry with such clarity it stimulates the hearers to action:  some try to kill Him, while others join Him.
  • Vigor – The surge of energy is the mark of the launch of a rocket.  At His ministry launch, Jesus emerges from the baptismal waters, and is, in the words recorded in Mark, “immediately” driven into the wilderness where He confronts and wallops the devil.
  • Vitality – Excitement results from a successful launch.  In the launch stage of Jesus’ ministry, the crowds flock to Him, scintillated by His message and actions.
  • Volume – There is both growth in the launch path as the spacecraft zooms upward and growth in the consumption of energy as it overcomes gravity’s resistance.  In the launch of Jesus’ ministry on earth, He meets both conditions.  There is rapid growth as many people rush out to Him, but there is also increasing resistance, the more successful and visible He becomes.

Leadership action needed

  •   Cast Vision – The launch of a veering spacecraft must be aborted.  Thus, leaders must continually keep the vision before their leadership core and group during launch, lest the dynamics of excitement and energy cause the new organization to stray from its mission.
  • Maintain Energy – Huge volumes of energy are consumed in a launch.  Effective leaders observe their core and followers closely, watching for signs of burnout.  Such leaders create ways to refresh and replenish the leadership team and the group during launch phase through rest, renewal and inspiration.
  • Confront and overcome resistance – Whether it’s gravity pushing against a rocket or scribes and Pharisees, as in the case of Jesus, there will always be hefty resistance in the launch phase. Leaders recognize this and deal with the resistance positively and forcefully.

To be continued…

Wallace Henley is a pastor, journalist, former White House aide, leadership consultant, and author of “Globequake,” among other books. He teaches Apologetics at Belhaven University and can be reached at walhenley@gmail.com.