The Responsibilities of Leaders, Part II: Power, Mary Sue, and Where’s Shelly?

In last week’s post, I provided an overview of The Responsibilities of Leaders, one of Hubbard’s more iconic writings, along with some observations from former Scientologists Brian Lambert and Jefferson Hawkins on the importance of this policy in understanding Scientology’s zeitgeist. Both gentlemen frame their observations of this policy as being perhaps a sort of “command legacy” from Hubbard to David Miscavige given that it’s Miscavige’s favorite LRH essay, which he uses to illustrate what he literally expects from his subordinates in terms of loyalty, ruthlessness, and Keeping Scientology Working. This week I begin by contrasting Hubbard’s power-as-leadership model against more traditional concepts of leadership, and then examine the connection between Mary Sue Hubbard and The Four Seasons of Manuela, and lastly, how The Responsibilities of Leaders may account for David Miscavige’s behavior and its subsequent impact on his relationship with wife Shelly Miscavige.

Leadership versus Hubbard’s Concepts of Power and the Power Formulas

Leaders wield varying degrees of power depending on their circumstances — think think of Machiavelli’s observations on the traits of a prince (or leader) and the application of power in The Prince. Ideally, the positive connotations of leadership are comprised not only of the proper use of power, but also those tangible and intangible traits, behaviors, and norms that inspire, motivate, and ultimately allow a group to accomplish a desired goal or outcome. Whether on the battlefield, boardroom, or basketball court, certain fundamental traits are constant among leaders: vision, sacrifice, empathy, courage, and knowledge are but a few, along with ruthlessness within reason, painful objectivity, and uncompromising resolution in achieving a desired outcome. Conversely, Hubbard’s ideal “leader” as described throughout The Responsibilities of Leaders, wields power rather capriciously, instead of leading by example and consensus; unquestioned obedience, indeed obsequiousness is the preferred norm among subordinates, while action is spurred-on in a manner that is harassing, intimidating, or malevolent, motivated by an amoral, antithetical, and utilitarian understanding as to what constitutes a desirable outcome.

Leadership certainly can necessitate unquestioned obedience, in life-or-death domains like the battlefield, the operating theatre, or while fighting a three-alarm fire. However, given these contextually appropriate venues for power reflective of an agreed-to position of responsibility granted to those who have earned the right to lead, Hubbard’s notions of power as the defining construct of leadership seems somehow wildly inappropriate as the default mechanism for instilling loyalty, especially within the supposed spiritual purview of an alleged “messiah,” and the originator of a series of processes he perceives as mankind’s last hope.

Hubbard’s omission of any discussion about leadership appears to stem from his use of the Power Formula as his main analytical device, a component of Scientology’s Ethics Conditions, and also as a frame of reference. Much of the First and Third Dynamics of the Power Conditions consist of recommendations on how to keep one’s power and how to exploit those subservient to you, rather than on how to inspire or delegate, let alone nurture the innate abilities of your charges; essentially, they reflect Hubbard’s narcissistic view of command as the right to impose his will rather than to lead.

Hubbard states that Bolívar was “brave beyond any general in history on the battlefield,” all while ignoring such contemporary luminaries as Napoleon, von Clausewitz or Wellington; so aside from his hyperbolic historical ignorance, it’s clear that traditional ideas of leadership don’t resonate with Hubbard. This is certainly reinforced by the fact that, given Hubbard’s repeated use of figures and events from military history, in furthering his argument, he makes no attempt to use even a single incident from the campaigns of any of these leaders, nor does he highlight the attributes that made them great commanders.

Even more puzzling is that Napoleon was an emperor, and yet Hubbard makes no mention of Napoleonic power anywhere in The Responsibilities of Leaders; therefore, it must then be all about Hubbard’s definition of power, rather than power as exercised by legitimate historical figures as an element of leadership. Thus once again, we see Hubbard ignoring or spinning history in furthering his argument, despite the fact that historical precedent would have reinforced some of his observations on power; such omissions then suggest strongly that maybe The Responsibilities of Power isn’t solely about power.

Mary Sue Hubbard, Manuela, and the Big Whine

Hubbard’s history with wives and women in general has already been covered ably in many forums, and is beyond the scope of this post. However, it’s interesting that when he wrote The Responsibilities of Leaders in 1967, Hubbard used a strong woman as the nexus for his arguments on power, rather than his typical hyper-competent male scenario. Metaphorically, that strong woman may indeed may have been his then-wife, Mary Sue Hubbard.

Before Mary Sue came on the scene, Hubbard had been floundering to the point where he’d lost the copyrights to Dianetics and was broke yet again. Such was the impact on Hubbard of meeting Mary Sue in 1951, that it can be argued that essentially, there’s a pre and post-Mary Sue era when defining Scientology’s historical trajectory; such was her impact on Scientology that to some, she’s considered “the First Lady of Scientology.” While perhaps the “First Lady,” she can also be described as the power behind the throne, given her intelligence, organizational skills, and unfettered loyalty to LRH and to building the cult.

The complex dynamic between Hubbard and Mary Sue is in many ways responsible for Scientology’s place in the world, as well as its own unique organizational eccentricities, excesses and successes. Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, though not a documentary, provides an interesting take on what may have been the psychological underpinnings of this dynamic through the relationship between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams, and reflects the emotional and physical elasticity between LRH and Mary Sue and their complicated existence together within Scientology.

On the surface, The Responsibilities of Leaders is meant to provide a guide to Scientologists in a position of power on how to wield and exploit that power, yet there’s also an undertone of Hubbard whining about a lack of respect and loyalty. Given his paranoia, it’s as though he’s indirectly asking his underlings “why are you not giving me 100%?” Or perhaps, “I’ve given you all these great tools, yet I don’t feel I’m given the respect due me for doing so, so here’s what I want in return!” Paradoxically, in putting Mary Sue in perspective, it’s almost as if The Responsibilities of Leaders is a sort of love letter to her, in that he’s describing all those traits he admires in her as the ultimate expression of fealty and a loyalty due any person in power; in short, why aren’t the rest of you lot like Mary Sue?

Furthermore, The Four Seasons of Manuela itself is also a love story, so Hubbard may have felt it expressed not only his demands of his subordinates, but also a clumsy means of expressing his appreciation for Mary Sue’s efforts. Hubbard often comes across as rather clumsy when expressing appreciation for women, be they those on staff or his wives, so metaphors and allegories could have been his preferred method of expressing his romantic ardor. While romance may have been problematic for Hubbard, he definitely viewed marriage and family as detrimental to furthering Scientology, in contrast to Mary Sue, who valued family to a far greater extent than Hubbard ever did even while being equally devoted to growing the cult. It’s telling that when son Quentin committed suicide in 1976, Hubbard viewed Quentin’s death as a personal affront, rather than mourning him as did Mary Sue. She was a far more empathetic figure, for example mitigating much of his random retribution towards the crew while on the Apollo, as well as demonstrating a sincere interest in the well-being of individual Scientologists.

Mary Sue may have not considered The Responsibilities of Leaders to be a long love letter, but she certainly exemplified many of the qualities Hubbard described as essential for his subordinates. Short of outright murder, Mary Sue’s actions as head of the Guardian’s Office certainly reflected the ruthless dedication to the cause so near and dear to Hubbard, embodying an “ends justify the means” philosophy on a daily basis; ultimately she fell on her sword by going to prison for her actions during Operation “Snow White.” It’s as though The Responsibilities of Leaders became a self-fulfilling prophecy for Mary Sue, as would later prove to be the case with another high profile wife in Scientology.

The Responsibilities of Leaders as Command Intent and Shelly’s Disappearance

Last week’s post provided an overview of the importance of The Responsibilities of Leaders to David Miscavige’s oversight of Scientology. Like Hubbard, he uses it as means to ensure his subordinates and other members of the church know what’s expected of them, as well as a means of control in general. However, it also provides a means of understanding the strange circumstances of his wife Shelly’s exile, likely to the Church of Spiritual Technology’s (CST) compound at Lake Arrowhead, California in 2005, as well her path to ostracization.

Shelly’s importance in the recent history of Scientology is well-documented, and a good overview can be found here on Tony Ortega’s “The Underground Bunker.” It was clear from my research that Shelly is thought of as a very polarizing person among former members. She could be a good friend, and as the wife of the head of Scientology, she could also be a doctrinaire harpy, capable of spouting Hubbardian policy verbatim, and ironically, the “Bolivar letter” (The Responsibilities of Leaders) as well, using it as a dogmatic cudgel to force her will on those around her. The general consensus holds that Shelly was banished for taking the initiative on several projects that David Miscavige was supposedly heading, and having done so, was disciplined by him for perceived deficiencies in her execution thereof.

In Conclusion

While Shelly’s alleged incompetence may be a contributing factor in her disappearance, given Miscavige’s obsession with The Responsibilities of Leaders, there’s a great irony in her having been a forceful advocate of this policy, as part of the justification for her exile may be in fact her having failed to live up to Miscavige’s interpretation of a subordinate’s duties therein. While at the end of the day she’s his wife, she’s still subordinate to him as head of Scientology. Therefor, it stands to reason that given his zealous disciplinary bent and Hubbard’s readily available laundry list for gauging loyalty, COB was provided a convenient justification for handling an uncomfortable situation.

As a seasoned Scientologist as well as having lived at worked at its highest echelons, Shelly may in fact be doing great works for the church within the CST. However, as tends to be the Scientology way, yet again we see a policy used as a means to intimidate, disappear, or otherwise eliminate a problem, rather than addressing the circumstances that created it in the first place. Mary Sue’s end was no different, as, despite having served jail time for Hubbard, she too was eventually forced out and written out of Scientology history. While this has yet to happen to Shelly, there is precedent. Such is the lot of “loyal officers.”

The Responsibilities of Leaders serves to reinforce several sinister foundational elements within Scientology: its inherent, top-down driven ruthlessness; its lack of any normal ethical or moral framework; its utilitarian, asocial “ends justify the means” philosophy, and that any action, up to and including murder, is justifiable in saving mankind. The Responsibilities of Leaders is reflective of everything a good leader is not. If it serves any useful purpose, it’s as a warning as to how and why Scientology became such a malignant presence on the planet.