Someone said that around a quarter of a million people watched part 2 of Eamonn Mallie’s Paisley interview (From Genesis to Revelation). I watched it last night – it made for fascinating viewing. I am not writing to weigh in on one side or the other in the controversy that the programme stirred, but here are two reflections that I think have relevance to all leaders, whether political or religious (Ian Paisley was both).
1 – On accountability. The Paisleys seemed shocked and surprised that their party and their church should respond so negatively to Dr Paisley’s actions and performance and that is a reminder that negative feedback is not easy to receive – it can be painful and some leaders can find it difficult to depersonalise criticism. However there are probably times when most leaders need to be told they are on the wrong track. That kind of feedback is painful; it requires courage and sensitivity to give and humility to receive. I don’t know the inner workings of either Dr Paisley’s church or political party, so cannot comment on how this issue has played out historically for him. However it is an issue for every leader – and every organisation to be aware of.
2 – On succession. Eamonn Mallie referred to a fascinating statement from Enoch Powell on the danger of a politician overstaying their welcome: it doesn’t end well. So there is an art in knowing how and when to step down and hand over the reins to someone else. How either the DUP or the Free Presbyterian Church goes about that is none of my business. But a leader – like a top sports player – needs to know when to step aside and his legacy will be enhanced if his succession is well planned and prepared for. Biblically, it’s fascinating to observe the difference between what happened to Israel post-Moses and post-Joshua.
It is a sad and sobering thing to see a man in his late 80s who finds himself alienated from the two institutions he established during his lifetime.
Did you see the interview? What leadership issues did you observe?