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What Makes Our Ideas Legitimate?


Malcom Galdwell on Q Commons discussing:



Given the current debate over the legitimacy of ideas in Australian society with the impending marriage-equality postal vote, and questions being raised about the right of opposing voices to be heard, this 20 minute video by Malcom Gladwell provides a helpful way for everyone, but especially leaders, to consider their actions, words and role, and to ask how they can cultivate their presence in such a way that people will listen and obey.


Galdwell opens the scriptures to identify how Jesus was able to gain that level of legitimacy and impact. Ultimately, the message for leaders is to think about not just what they say, but also what they do. Jesus’ act of washing his disciples feet, while culturally disruptive behaviour, makes the very powerful point that Jesus’ legitimacy and authority to lead came from his willingness to serve.


Gladwell says that ‘people will obey when they feel they are being treated legitimately’. He says that people see things as being legitimate when they are given and treated with: 

1. Respect

2. Fairness and

3. Trustworthiness


When these 3 principles are in play, Gladwell says that people will obey and listen. For the leader these three items become critical elements in building communities where people feel like they are being treated legitimately.


When Galdwell discusses this idea within the context of education and raises the issue of equity, he makes some poignant points for all educators to consider. As we go about our work do we treat students with respect, fairness and trustworthiness? Do we treat parents in the same way? How about our colleagues? Ultimately Galdwell draws everyone’s attention back to Jesus’ actions in washing the feet of his disciples. As a result, our actions must stem from our core beliefs driven by a firm faith in Jesus himself.


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