Ever since its inception, the practice of Scientology has been of great interest to many outside of it due to its unconventional customs. The Church of Scientology was founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1950 (Wood). Hubbard passed away in 1986, naming no clear successor (Howell). David Miscavige rose to the challenge shortly after, and he continues to lead with the title of Chairman of the Board of Religious Technology Center. This role affords Miscavige a variety of responsibilities, particularly as an “ecclesiastical leader” (“David Miscavige”). This report will analyze how David Miscavige employs effective and ineffective leadership qualities as the head of Scientology.
Although this report will focus on the leadership of Miscavige, it is important to establish what Scientology is through describing some of its major practices and beliefs. In Hubbard’s writing, Scientology is defined as “an applied religious philosophy and technology resolving problems of the spirit, life and thought” (Hubbard 2-5). The beliefs followed in Scientology are reportedly as follows:
“75 million years ago[,] Earth was known as Teegeeack and … an intergalactic warlord named Xenu brought billions of his enemies here from other stars and vaporized them with hydrogen bombs. The souls of those beings still haunt our planet, and auditing exorcises them” (Wood).
Many tout Scientology’s credo as bizarre, though others argue “the Scientologists’ beliefs are no more bizarre than any other religion” (Bradshaw). Undoubtedly, David Miscavige must dedicate a large amount of effort in the act of dispelling rumours in regards to Scientology in order to preserve the organization. It is time to take a look at what Miscavige does to lead The Church of Scientology and maintain its very existence.
Leadership Communication Style
David Miscavige believes in an authoritarian leadership style. He “maintains strict control over followers by directly regulating policy, procedures and behaviours” and also “create[s] distance between himself and his followers as means of emphasizing role distinctions” (Hackman and Johnson). This is alleged by past and current figures, including one of the most respected figures of the Church; Debbie Cook suggested that the organization has lost its way under Miscavige’s direction. He, according to some, is listed as a tyrant who is unafraid to punish those who stand in his way or remove executives from their post (Miami). Rathbun, a former senior executive and spokesperson of the Church of Scientology, who once defended Miscavige against any allegations now claims that he is nothing more than a 5 foot 5 bully who physically attacks underlings (Nark). The current leader abuses those in his command and isolates followers from their families, using his fists to touch people’s lives. It is also alleged that actor Tom Cruise was made to divorce Nicole Kidman in 2001 at Miscavige’s behest. Kidman’s father was known to be a critic of Scientology. A strict authoritarian leader such as Miscavige would not allow for his authority to be questioned (Howell). This also contributes to the power distance that is perceived by Scientologists. There is a large power distance, as is consistent with his strict authoritarian leadership. His word is law and any argument can lead to an individual being cast out of the group (Growing Clear). Although Miscavige greatly inspired many current and past followers, he continues to maintain a strict control over the Church, ensuring that each individual is doing what he believes will benefit the religion.
To some well-known individuals like Tom Cruise, who identify themselves as Scientologists, Miscavige is viewed as a competent, intelligent, tolerant or compassionate man (Nark). Since Cruise is such a high profile celebrity, Miscavige expertly manipulates him by rewarding good behaviour. After Miscavige convinced Cruise to divorce Kidman, Cruise and Miscavige returned to good terms again. According to Ortega, “by 2004, Tom Cruise was the most gung-ho Scientologist in the world, and Miscavige wanted to recognize him for it. He called it ‘The Freedom Medal of Valour’ and they put together this thirty-five minute video. In it, they just pop up this idea that Tom Cruise is the Ambassador of Scientology to the world” (Going Clear).
John Travolta has also been a faithful Scientologist for many years. Travolta said, “I’m part of a frontier, in a way, that very few people get to be a part of” (Howell). Although not referring to Miscavige’s leadership style, these personality traits can be exemplified in his humanitarian efforts. Following in Hubbard’s footsteps, Miscavige holds that he holds an important role in the global community as a religious leader, as he is part of a Church that is recognized as a legitimate religious institution. Miscavige has used his power for a wide variety of initiatives, including drug rehabilitation and prevention as well as working against illiteracy (“David Miscavige”).
Leadership Style — Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid
David Miscavige’s leadership style fits into that of Authority Obedience Management under the Blake and Mouton Managerial Grid. This type of leadership focusses less on the people within the organization and more on the task at hand. There is little to no concern for the value of human life (Hackman and Johnson). “Some ex-members have alleged abuses under his command. Some have called Miscavige a dictator who isolates followers from their families and uses his fists to touch people’s lives” (Nark). The efficiency of operations within the church is a result of “arranging conditions of work in such a way that human elements interfere to a minimum degree” (Hackman and Johnson). Miscavige is a leader who lets nothing stand in his way. In order for certain tasks to be completed, he is not afraid to abuse and mistreat members of the Church. In the past, those who stood in his way faced disciplinary action, and many executives have even been removed from their post (Miami). According to Rathbun, “Miscavige is a true believer. He uses and abuses people on a personal level. Its how he got to the top. That’s how he stayed at the top” (Going Clear). The best situation was when Miscavige’s paranoia led him to “turn against the Sea Org’s most high-ranking executives” (Alex Gibney, Going Clear). DeVocht said, “He very definitely wiped out that organizational pattern in order to be able to have ultimate power” (Going Clear). “In 2004, Miscavige ordered the top officers of the Sea Org. to Scientology’s gold base in Southern California. He forced them to live in a pair of double-wide trailers that came to be ‘the Hole’” (Alex Gibney, Going Clear). According to Rinder, former Church of Scientology Spokesman, “The doors had bars put on them. The windows all had bars put on them and there was one entrance door that a security guard sat at twenty-four hours a day” (Going Clear). DeVocht recounts, “We were told that we had to come up with what each other’s crimes were against Miscavige and Hubbard so that we could eventually get out of the hole” (Going Clear). With tactics such as those shown above, it is evident that David Miscavige has little regard for the followers of the Church of Scientology, only caring for the tasks the need to be done to benefit either the church or himself.
Miscavige upheld Hubbard’s dreamt up policies and procedures after his death. The “Fair Game” policy was the most compelling in Scientology’s history. Tony Ortega, a journalist, explains (Going Clear), “This comes right out of Hubbard’s policies from the sixties. He [Hubbard] said: ‘We never defend, we always attack.’ And they followed it ever since. They called it ‘Fair Game’ and anybody who criticizes Scientology is ‘Fair Game.’” Scientology had always had problems with the government because they considered themselves to be a religion and should not have to pay taxes. When Hubbard was in power, he fled the United States in order to avoid paying millions of dollars in taxes (Going Clear). However, a pivotal moment for Scientology was on October 1, 1993, when the IRS deemed Scientology to be a religion and granted them tax exemption. Miscavige said, “What we are going to talk about today is a war that will end all wars” (Going Clear). Lawrence Wright, author of the book Going Clear, further explains, “Faced with this crisis, Miscavige formulated a strategy” (Going Clear). Not only was the church suing the IRS, but Scientologists also started suing individuals within the IRS and investigating the IRS for general crimes that had nothing to do with the Church (Going Clear). Alex Gibney concluded, “It [IRS], forgave the billion dollar tax bill and granted Scientology its tax exemption…Miscavige let Goldberg know that if they could get exempt status, all those lawsuits will go away overnight” (Going Clear).
The entire organization is also set up on a bait-and-switch concept. According to Paul Haggis, when he first joined, he thought that Scientology was something simply meant to help accomplish their personal goals in life (Going Clear). However, Ortega explains, “You need to be a Scientologist for seven or eight years and in for a couple hundred thousand dollars before you finally learn about the backstory of Xenu the galactic overlord. Now if you were told that on day one, how many people would join?” (Going Clear). This success inspired followers to remain a part of the Church and proved Miscavige a worthy leader, thus allowing him to maintain control over his followers.
Hubbard invented the electropsychometer in order to perform what he called “auditing sessions.” These sessions were meant to help people solve their inner anxieties and issues. What many people did not realize was that the Church recorded and used their confidential information to control their behaviour. “One of the reasons for Cruise’s loyalty to Scientology, the film [Going Clear] alleges, is that Miscavige maintains a folder of spy info documenting the church’s claim that Cruise engages in ‘perverted sex’. That description of Cruise’s sex life, which isn’t elaborated upon, comes from one of the many former Scientologists interviewed by Gibney” (The Star). “Cruise ended his 11-year marriage to Kidman in 2001 after Miscavige became suspicious of Kidman’s father, a prominent Australian psychologist who was critical of Scientology. As for Boniadi, also an actress and a series regular in TV drama Homeland, the film says Cruise cruelly cast her out, after she was carefully groomed to be with him (including orthodontic work and $20,000 worth clothes), because she accidentally disrespected Miscavige” (The Star). Because of Miscavige’s friendship with and influence over him, Cruise is easily manipulated to do whatever Miscavige decides will benefit the Church.
Scientologist believers are conformists; “they are committed to organizational goals but express few thoughts of their own” (Hackman and Johnson).They closely follow the rules set by both the book of Dianetics and by their past and current ecclesiastical leaders. According to Lorne Dawson, a professor at the University of Waterloo, “They [followers] sincerely believe that their lives [due to joining scientology] gain purpose and meaning, and that they have superior insight into the world” (Allemang). Under the authoritarian leadership style of David Miscavige, who maintains strict control over believers, Scientologists have been led to withhold thoughts and ideas due to fear of authority (Beebe et al 88). Ms. Jenna Miscavige, niece of David Miscavige, believes that “Scientology makes it hard for devotees to leave the faith . . . since the church threatens its dissidents with severe reprisals.” Many followers are often groomed from early childhood. To Ms. Miscavige, this tactic is disgusting. “It’s completely taking advantage of someone who’s innocent, vulnerable and has no one there to protect them” (Globe & Mail). Members are conformists, being trained at a young age and with an institutional fear of the executive members of Scientology. They are afraid to speak up or speak poorly of the religion, thus holding back ideas. Conformity may also be the reason why Scientology continues to grow. Canadian Scientology leaders claim that there are 100,000 scientologists within Canada, although a past census conducted by the government only recorded 1,525 (Allemang). Although it is not attracting as many followers as executives desire, with followers obeying the rules of the church, the member count will continue to increase. “Scientology’s growth strategy depends on retaining the children of the most fervent Scientologists, people who are nurtured in the faith and accustomed to its ways.” Many current scientologists were born into the religion, and have no choice but to take part in their beliefs (Allemang).
The Sea Organization
The book Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape is written by Jenna Miscavige Hill, the niece of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Jenna Miscavige Hill is an American former Scientologist in Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape, Jenna describes growing up in the church, her life as a member of Sea Org, the church’s most devoted core group. Jenna explains in detail in her book what it was like to be sent away as a child to receive an education in Scientology, the labor that was forced upon her, the harassment she faced from officials throughout her life (Hill). Not only is she related to Scientology’s most powerful member, but after leaving the Church of Scientology in 2005, she has become a prominent critic of the organization and of David Miscavige himself. Jenna Miscavige appears on “Piers Morgan Live” to discuss her book, “Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape.” There she admits to Piers that her uncle, David Miscavige would be classified “evil.” She speaks out regarding David Miscavige, stating how “someone who decides if thousands of people can’t have kid, runs a church where he forces abortion, has people performing labour duties and separates them from their families would be indeed considered “evil” (“Jenna Miscavige on Piers Morgan Tonight, 2/05/2013.”). In addition, Miscavige inspired fear among the members in the Sea Org. He was also described as controlling and acting as if he is superior authority figure among the organization. She also explains that he forms a group that is difficult to leave, and guilt is thrown upon you if you attempt to leave. He also makes the people of the organization not trust themselves either, always making them second guess themselves so they feel as if they are not able to make decisions (Hill). Considering the personality of David Miscavige described through his niece Jenna Miscavige, it is evident that the leadership style David Miscavige, the Scientology leader adopts is the Authoritarian style. “My experience in growing up in Scientology is that it is both mentally and at times physically abusive,” Miscavige’s niece, former Scientologist Jenna Miscavige Hill, told The Hollywood Reporter. “We got a lousy education from unqualified teachers, forced labor, long hours, forced confessions, being held in rooms, not to mention the mental anguish of trying to figure out all of the conflicting information they force upon you as a young child” (Corneau). One of the several consequences in Authoritarian led groups would be; “the followers exhibit more dependence and less individuality under authoritarian leaders.” Therefore, it would make sense that children in authoritarian groups are more submissive than those in other groups. These children in these organization are “less likely to initiate action with the approval of the leader and less likely to express their opinion and ideas than children in the democratic and laissez-faire group” (Hackman and Johnson 75). As Jenna Miscavige describes, this was the situation due to the fact that David Miscavige as an authoritarian leader in this group would “dictate follower behaviour,” and control them by using power and fear (Hackman and Johnson 75).
As the head of Scientology, David Miscavige displays an authoritarian leadership style. This is exemplified in his maintenance of “strict control over followers by directly regulating policy, procedures and behaviours” (Hackman and Johnson). Miscavige also demonstrates his authoritarian leadership style through the emphasis of role distinctions and the creation of a large power distance between himself and his followers. The members of the Church of Scientology exhibit a conformist follower style, which befits the use of authoritarian leadership. On Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid, Miscavige’s leadership can be categorized as “Authority Obedience Management” (Hackman and Johnson).
There are a few strategies that David Miscavige should consider in order to strengthen his leadership. Authoritarian leadership comes with specific drawbacks. Though it is more positively accepted in larger groups, it is known to increase turnover rates. This situation is not ideal for Scientology, where followership is meant to be a lifetime commitment. Authoritarian leadership is also known to increase aggression from followers (Hackman and Johnson 78). Since Miscavige is fashioned as an ecclesiastical leader, the loyalty and trust of followers is imperative for success. Miscavige should lessen this strict authoritarianism if he wishes for the Church to be prosperous in the future. This can be accomplished by lessening power distance and incorporating more democratic methods. Allowing followers to feel they have some control in how Scientology is run can decrease the negative effects of authoritarian leadership. Miscavige may also consider distributing some of his power for making decisions more evenly across other executives. An example of this would be instituting a Board of Directors who, along with him, make important choices for Scientology. In addition to gaining the expertise of people from a variety of backgrounds, followers may feel more supported and represented (Hackman and Johnson). There are a multitude of ways in which Scientology can be lead, each with its own merits; Miscavige would do well to consider the benefits of each.