Donald Broadbent from the cognitive school of psychology actually believes that our traditional understanding of leadership can be significantly enhanced by looking at leadership through the lens of a cognitivist. Looking through this lens he says, “We will see that leadership is a transaction that occurs within and between the minds of leaders and followers. A leader is an individual who discerns a story, or myth – a mental representation – that significantly affects the thoughts, behaviours and feelings of a large number of people termed followers. Since followers invariably know many stories, a leader will only be effective if his or her story is powerful; if it can compete successfully for influence with already prevalent stories.”

The most powerful stories turn out – surprise, surprise – to be the ones about identity; stories that help individuals discover where they are coming from, and where they are, or should be headed. A crucial element in the effectiveness of a story hinges on whether a leader embodies the story; whether their own actions, values, and way of life reinforces the themes of the story that they relate.

The power of the right narrative to bring us to integration

In his book Re-Wired: Exploring Religious Conversion Paul Markham said, “Simply stated it seems becoming a Christian is the process of naturalisation into a narrative tradition which is, and is being shaped by the story of Jesus.”

It was Tertullian in the first century who said “The soul of man is naturally Christian.” He didn’t mean naturally virtuous, but have you noticed that everybody wants to look Christian, usually without paying the price of actually being Christian? (see early section of this chapter.)

A case could be put many of the other religions are redefining the presentation of their ethos to make them look more Christian. Tertullian was indicating that the deepest yearnings for what we would really like to look like and to be, if we felt we could sustain it, appear very much like Jesus. Maybe this is what lies behind the meaning of the words of John in his gospel when he said “Christ is the light which illuminates every man who comes in to the world.” Maybe it is why people like Mother Theresa have had so much impact!

Carl Jung finds another life key

Carl Jung wrote,“The historic figure we know as Jesus Christ is in fact the highest and most profound archetype that brought life to any spiritually hungry soul that identified with him.” That identification included names like Francis of Assisi of Italy, King Wenceslas of Czechoslovakia, Patrick of Ireland, Basil of Caesarea, Martin Luther of Germany, and John Wesley of England – to name a few. These people rose beyond the institutions of their day to bring spiritual insight and a social architecture that invited tens of thousands into a new and integrated, spiritually inspired, style of life.

The identification that shaped Western culture

There are those whose identification with Christ have shaped our culture – authors like Dickens, Tolstoy, and Dostoevsky. Others whose identification with Christ shaped the genius of their creative output include names from Vincent van Gogh to the great Michelangelo, or musical geniuses like Bach or Handel, and countless poets from Gerard Manley Hopkins to William Cowper to Milton.

Our culture has been illuminated by the enlightened spirits of those who not only identified with Christ but felt they had a love relationship with him. Who can estimate the impact of the nineteenth century reformers like Wilberforce, Lord Shaftesbury, Elizabeth Fry, Florence Nightingale and Keir Hardy all of whom confronted power structures and transformed them? More recently we have Martin Luther King Jr., Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandella, Dom Helda Camara and Mother Teresa.

The source of all that is uplifting and sweet in our society

Professor Edwin Judge of Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, believed anything sweet or humanising in a culture was, on closer scrutiny, always produced by somebody who identified with Jesus of Nazareth. In my own country Australia, we have Simpson and his donkey. He is our most significant military hero yet probably never fired a shot in anger. He was an ordinary man who laid down his life for his friends.There is a part of us that is always looking around for a narrative, a story that we can identify with that reminds us of who we are meant to be.

The need of prophet mythmakers for social progress

The prophet mythmaker is one who tells us what we can become together, and gives us a vision of our life purpose in the future we are meant to create. He brings us the story that lifts and bonds us, and saves us from self interest. Some stories and life responses are durable. They have lasted, not because of their historicity or proven scientific veracity, but because deep within the heart of humankind there is a recognition of the highest self residing waiting to be born.

In some spiritually alert people there is a heightened sense of the mystery behind all things, something that is being confirmed at all levels of human experience. Geoffrey Satinover, a practicing psychiatrist, studying for his doctorate in physics said, “I believe the discoveries that are at the heart of physics will make people aware of the fact (not just aware, it will make it second nature to them in the way materialism is second nature now ) that the entire physical universe is permeated at every level with a mystery that is fundamentally theological in nature.”