Our culture has come to a point where we have high expectations of leaders–very high, sometimes unreasonably high–and the effects that this produces can be dicey. I’ve been watching the news stories about the technical problems with the newest high-water mark of personal technology, the iPhone 4. Some people have reported that when they touch the lower left corner of the phone their signal loses strength. (I have the device, and I’ve tried to replicate the problem. But no matter how I hold it, cradle it, grip it with a stranglehold, the problem just does not happen. I feel left out.) The question is–how could major news organizations push this story to the top of the news, late night comics use it for material, and blogs light up like jungles covered in napalm? Why the intensity? The obsession?
There is a larger issue here, and I think it has to do with our cultural expectations. Apple prides itself on being the lead developer of elegantly designed hardware and software. It boasts, it struts. And, happy customers will say, for good reason. It used to be that Apple was the underdog, now it is the leading tech company in the world (by measurement of market capitalization). And now it has a gigantic target painted on its back.
We have high expectations of leaders. And that is amplified when a leader becomes an icon. When the leader represents himself or herself as excellent beyond all measures of excellence. When the leader pumps up expectations like a high-jumper having the bar raised beyond the point of reason.
In the church we need to carefully discern the undercurrents of expectations and how we react to them. Nobody wins when we obsess about effect and performance. God is honored when we celebrate the treasure that we hold in earthen vessels.