High Dedication Leadership

By James M. Rochford

Douglas Hyde was a member of the Communist Party for twenty years, and the news editor of the Communist paper called The London Daily Worker. In 1948, he resigned from the paper, and walked away from Communism to join the Catholic Church. While he resolutely rejected the ideology of Communism, he noticed that they had better leadership than most Christian organizations, and this was the reason for the spread and success of Communism in the 20th century. This bothered Hyde, because Christian leaders have the truth, but they are unable to instill dedication and motivation into others. Here are several key quotes from his book titled Dedication and Leadership.[1]

“It is a Communist world. In the past half century they have achieved one-third of that aim. On any reckoning, that is a remarkable achievement, probably an unprecedented one.” (p.10)

“They have always worked through minority… In practice, most organizations and causes work through minorities. Even those who believe most deeply in majority rule still depend upon the faithful few to do the work, to make the necessary sacrifices in time, energy and devotion to keep the movement going.” (p.10)

In order to get the picture clear, it must be noted that the human material on which they work is not something different from that which is at the disposal of others. The majority of Communists are ‘first generation’. This means that others, frequently Christians and Christian missionaries had them in their hands long before they went to the Communist Party. One can, and must for honesty’s sake, be more specific: often these people are identical with those who are available to Christians to instruct and use in the sense that a disturbingly high proportion of them, particularly those who form the hard core of the Communist Party, were once Catholics. In other words the Communists train and use successfully people with whom Christians had failed.” (p.13)

“If you ask me what is the distinguishing mark of the Communist, what it is that Communists most outstandingly have in common, I would not say, as some people might expect, their ability to hate—this is by no means common to them all. I would say that beyond any shadow of doubt it is their idealism, their zeal, dedication, devotion to their cause and willingness to sacrifice. This characterizes the Communists wherever Communism has still to come to power and is obviously true of many in the very different circumstances where it now rules. The vast majority of the Communists I have met anywhere conform to this pattern. This is no accident. It does not just happen. The Communists have evolved their own means by which they are able to evoke an exceptional degree of dedication. And they use it very effectively indeed. To understand how it is done, one must follow through the process step by step from the start.” (pp.14-15)

Youth is a period of idealism. The Communists attract young people by appealing directly to that idealism. Too often, others have failed either to appeal to it or to use it and they are the losers as a consequence. We have no cause to complain if, having neglected the idealism of youth, we see others come along, take it, use it and harness it to their cause—and against our own. It is fashionable in some circles today to sneer at ‘starry-eyed idealism’. Of all the ways of helping Communism I can think of none better than this. That sort of cynicism has driven many eager, earnest, intelligent and potentially good youngsters to believe that the West has nothing to offer the young idealist but cynicism, and that this is an expression of the decadence of our way of life. It has led them to believe that if you are interested in improving man’s lot on earth, if you want to change the world (and the boy who does not want to do this at some point during his adolescence will certainly make a cynical old materialist later on), it is to the Communists, not to the Christians, you must turn. Wherever I have traveled I have found that young people are idealistic. This is natural to any healthy youngster. I can only conclude that it is the way God wants them to be. We offend against charity and justice and against commonsense too, when we sneer at starry-eyed idealism. We do it to our own loss.” (p.16)

“The Communists’ appeal to idealism is direct and audacious. They say that if you make mean little demands upon people, you will get a mean little response. They prove in practice that this is so, over and over again. They work on the assumption that if you call for big sacrifices people will respond to this and, moreover, the relatively smaller sacrifices will come quite naturally.” (p.17)

“When I first went to work on the British Communist Party’s daily paper, I was proud that I had been chosen for the work, proud to make whatever sacrifice was asked of me, but I was nonetheless conscious of the fact that I had willingly accepted a ludicrously small wage. I will admit that I felt slightly virtuous about this—until I met other members of the staff. Most of them were older than I was at that time, they had gone further in their careers (and some had gone very far indeed) and had had to make far bigger sacrifices than I. Some of them were earning one-tenth of what had been their salary when they had worked for the ‘capitalist’ press. There were times when, small as our salaries were, these could not be paid at all.” (pp.17-18)

“Youngsters of every continent have responded to this example of idealism expressing itself in terms of sacrifice. This is true of the newly-developing areas. It is true also of the ‘decadent’ West. Indeed, the more materialistic our society becomes, the more the dedicated man stands out by way of contrast. The dedicated man makes his own appeal simply by virtue of the fact that he is dedicated.” (p.19)

“Dedication perpetuates itself. It sets the tone and pace of the movement as a whole. This being so, the movement can make big demands upon its followers, knowing that the response will come. If the majority of members of an organization are half-hearted and largely inactive, then it is not surprising if others who join it soon conform to the general pattern. If the organization makes relatively few demands upon its members and if they quite obviously feel under no obligation to give a very great deal to it, then those who join may be forgiven for supposing that this is the norm and that this is what membership entails.” (p.20)

“Those who are dedicated get immensely more out of life than those who are not.” (p.23)

“It is of course quite possible to produce leaders of some sort by teaching certain techniques. These are not the sort of leaders the Communists are interested in, nor, I suggest, are they the ones the Christian cause requires most today. You can learn certain techniques and so become a leader who leads for himself—if by leadership you simply mean getting to the top whether it be of an organization, a business, a profession or the political system. But the first requirement, if you are going to produce a leader for a cause, is that he should be dedicated.” (p.25)

We feel that this innate desire comes from being an image-bearer of God. Satan twists this desire into all kinds of causes. He also twists sexual desire to become perverted, but we know God created this for us, too.

Discussion Questions

Some Christians find the idea of studying Communist leadership principles to be immoral and ungodly. After all, Communists held to an atheistic worldview, and they were responsible for tens of millions of deaths. Do you agree with their criticism of Hyde?

Hyde writes that “if you make mean little demands upon people, you will get a mean little response.” What does he mean by this? Also, how would you know if you were calling on others for too little?

Hyde argues that youthful idealism is a key to the growth of Communism. Why might this be the case?

As leaders, do you hear people around you talking more about the problems of being overwhelmed, or the problems of being underwhelmed? What are some of the negative symptoms of being underwhelmed?

Do you agree with Hyde when he says that movements are carried by the minority? If so, how do you see this operating in your leadership?

If our dedication doesn’t match the picture given by Hyde, what could be some ways to get it back?

We typically hear that a highly dedicated church is legalistic. But how often do we use the term “legalistic” for a lazy group of Christians? But in what ways is low-dedication legalistic?

Hyde doesn’t speak to what could happen when people reject a call for high-dedication. If you were to write a paragraph on this, what would you have to say?

[1] Douglas Hyde, Dedication and Leadership (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966).