There is an old saying in sports that claims the most popular player on the football team is the backup quarterback. This points to the irony behind our insatiable desire for the current leader to be supplanted by the next, who although unproven and untried is assumed to be superior to the leader in place. This is nothing new. We see it everywhere in our culture. Whether its sports, business, politics, or even the local church, there is something about our culture that fancies the prospect of what could be versus the familiarity of what is. Qoheleth saw this same absurdity in his culture, and documented it as follows.
It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. Such a youth could rise from poverty and succeed. He might even become king, though he has been in prison. But then everyone rushes to the side of yet another youth who replaces him. Endless crowds stand around him, but then another generation grows up and rejects him, too. So it is all meaningless—like chasing the wind. (Ecclesiastes 4:13-16, NLT)
The first absurdity the Preacher points out is the quest of men and women who aspire to leadership and reach the pinnacle of leadership, only to be stranded there. Powerful, yet inflexible, familiarity creates restlessness and boredom among the masses. The leaders, once entrenched, become more and more immobile and increasingly out of touch. In short, they become tone deaf to any advice that could help them. Isolated from reality, they become vulnerable, which leads them to grasping for loyal subjects instead of logical solutions.
The second absurdity is the simple fact that those who are not in leadership constantly look to leaders to serve as functional saviors. The expectation is often unreasonable, yet we cannot help ourselves, for those who aspire to leadership often over promise and under deliver. Once a leader falls from the favor and good graces of their followers, the quest begins for the new king, the new CEO, the new pastor, and yes, the new quarterback.
This cycle is familiar. What does it say to those who lead? What does it say to those who follow.