A PhD seminar presented on 06 April 2023 to the faculty and graduate students of the School of Religious Studies, McGill University.

Title: The Apostle Paul and Leadership Theory: Leading by Narrative, A Multidisciplinary Approach.


The increase in the frequency of cross-pollination of theories and constructs between religious studies and applied/professional fields requires a rigorous multi-disciplinary approach within academia. The exchange began and continues on two fronts: First, the perceived decline of the Church in the West has been attributed in part to the nature and quality of ecclesial leadership; Second, business organisations have begun to draw from general notions of spirituality and Biblical text as pathways to leadership development. This bi-directional exchange between seemingly unrelated fields of study deserves close examination in order to elucidate points of legitimate contact. This dissertation brings current business/organisational leadership research into a dialogue with Biblical studies that distinguishes historicist and social-scientific approaches from Biblical theological hermeneutics, especially where Biblical text is read as normative and prescriptive.


Leadership occurs at every level of social interaction. There is evidence that in antiquity leadership had already been a social concern both in matters of governance as well as in folklore, even if a homologous term is not easy to find in ancient languages. Across time, the formulation of theories and models of leadership appears to be an outcome of cumulative insights rather than a series of discontinuous conceptual or paradigm shifts. Indeed, the phenomenon of leadership behaviour is comprehensively described by four Darwinian drives claimed to have been operational from Homo habilis to Homo erectus to Homo sapiens. This confers legitimacy to the use of current leadership theories and models to further understand that which occurred in the distant past, e.g., first-century Pauline communities, the subject of this thesis.

Narrative Leadership is a recent addition to the ensemble of models of leadership behaviour in business organisations and ecclesial settings. Narrative leadership theory begins with the premise that humans have been employing narrative for a variety of purposes across a temporal and cultural continuum. This, coupled with the era-independent nature of the fundamental notions of leadership, legitimises the narrative approach to the analysis of the leadership style of Paul as presented in Biblical text.

The dissertation will depart from the current trend to characterise Pauline leadership style through the lens of several modern, holistic, and trait-based theories. These approaches have unavoidable limits for Pauline leadership studies because they rely on qualitative analysis of data extracted from questionnaires and interviews. On the other hand, Biblical text provides several gestures toward the nature of Pauline leadership, especially Paul’s historic-literary-rhetorical self-representation as a leader in letters to various audiences; and historic-literary representation of Paul as leader in Acts. This dissertation will refer to the former, Paul’s self-representations as a leader.

This dissertation will study the narrative sections in 1Thess 1:2-3:13, Gal 1:11-2:21, and Phil 1:7-1:26 and 3:2-14. The questions are: Did Paul’s narratives follow the patterns of Narrative Leadership as defined and understood in current literature? If so, how did the situational variable modulate Paul’s expression of Narrative Leadership?

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