Reappraising Hubbard’s “The Responsibilities of Leaders”

Certain Scientology policies written by L. Ron Hubbard have assumed almost mythic proportions. Keeping Scientology Working is perhaps the penultimate example but there have been others. These policies provide an inside look at the mind of Hubbard and are very helpful for those seeking an understanding of his motivations and thought processes. To some extent, these policies also illustrate not only Scientology’s group-think on expanding their reach, but also how Hubbard expected Scientologists themselves to think and act.

The Importance of The Responsibilities of Leaders

Beyond Keeping Scientology Working, perhaps one of the next most crucial policies is called The Responsibility of Leaders, released on February 12, 1967. Over the next two posts, I’ll first look at the more obvious Scientological connotations of this important policy, and in my second, I’ll address some of the more subtle, heretofore unrecognized or underappreciated contextual and historical motivations for Hubbard writing this iconic policy. What’s unique about The Responsibilities of Leaders is that not only does he not use his own writings as the primary frame of reference, but more so, that he uses a strong woman as the basis for this allegorical discourse on power and loyalty.

It’s clear to even the casual observer, that Hubbard was not shy about imparting his ideals about pretty much anything and everything, in a manner that implied absolute mastery of any topic he broached. Though much of what he wrote was incoherent or factually inconsistent, he produced a significant body of work that to this day remains impressive in scope and does contain some kernels of truth as to the human condition among other things. Yet, while much of Scientology involves checksheets and lists, step-by-step procedures and oodles of rote drills, much of his practical writings about managing Scientology on a daily basis can leave a reader flummoxed as to his intent and the desired outcome(s); it’s no wonder that one of Hubbard’s many axioms appears to justify this oft-incoherent logorrhea in support of his many “truths:” “If it isn’t written, it isn’t true.”

Aside from the obvious logical inconsistencies of such a statement, his intent here would explain a great deal of why he was so prodigious in documenting policies, advisories, notes and letters regarding every conceivable circumstance within Scientology, relative to reinforcing, indeed inculcating his numerous thoughts on what constituted the “truth.” Though the tone throughout The Responsibility of Leaders becomes increasingly strident, corse, and dark, ultimately sanctioning violence and skulduggery as key to one’s power, perversely, Hubbard is for once refreshingly clear in his intent.

“Source” and The Four Seasons of Manuela

Having read a biographical study of Manuela Sáenz, the mistress of Simón Bolívar, one of the great heroes of the 19th century Latin American independence movement from Spain, Hubbard found the historical elements herein of interest, as a means to illustrate his ideas on loyalty and the foibles of subordinates relative to those in power, as well how to keep and employ power as a “leader.” While Bolívar is certainly part of the story here, it’s Manuela’s strengths and weaknesses that shape his narrative. Furthermore, rather than a allegorical discussion of the relationship between leaders and followers in traditional leadership terms, Hubbard’s thesis here is strictly a riff on the unilateral manifestations of power; more so, warning of the unavoidable failures that will result from anything short of an absolutely ruthless application thereof. And while his lessons here may appear allegorical to non-Scientologists, it’s anything but. To his adherents, Hubbard is “Source,” the fountainhead of all wisdom and direction from which every Scientologist takes their mandate, regardless of how contrary such directives may be to the laws and norms of the outside “wog” world. Thus it is no allegory; it is policy – it mandates a way of thinking as well as how things must be done and should be considered as infallible as “the Tech.” The ramifications of this mindset will become more ominous given Hubbard’s apparent intentions in writing The Responsibility of Leaders.

In setting the stage for The Responsibilities of Leaders, typically, he establishes his role as “expert” by questioning the motivations and circumstances of both subjects, as reflected in his opening paragraphs:

Here are a few comments on power, being or working close to or under a power, which is to say a leader or one who exerts wide primary influence on the affairs of men. I have written it this way, using two actual people to give an example of magnitude enough to interest and to furnish some pleasant reading. And I used a military sphere so it could be seen clearly without restimulation of administrative problems.

The book referenced is a fantastically able book by the way.

The Mistakes of Simon Bolivar and Manuela Saenz

(Reference: The book entitled The Four Seasons of Manuela by Victor W. von Hagen, a biography. A Mayflower Dell Paperback. Oct. 1966.)

Simon Bolivar was the liberator of South America from the yoke of Spain. Manuela Saenz was the liberatress and consort. Their acts and fates are well recorded in this moving biography. But aside from any purely dramatic value, the book lays bare and motivates various actions of great interest to those who lead, who support or are near leaders.

Simon Bolivar was a very strong character. He was one of the richest men in South America. He had real personal ability given to only a handful on the planet. He was a military commander without peer in history. Why he would fail and die an exile to be later deified is thus of great interest. What mistakes did he make?

Manuela Saenz was a brilliant, beautiful and able woman. She was loyal, devoted, quite comparable to Bolivar, far above the cut of average humanoids. Why then did she live a vilified outcast, receive such violent social rejection and die of poverty and remain unknown to history? What mistakes did she make?

What follows however, is nothing resembling a proper book review, reasoned deconstruction, nor an accurate analysis of the historical facts relative to the information contained within The Four Seasons of Manuela or for that matter, the greater historical record of the period in question. Rather, in typical Hubbardian fashion, steeped in Scientology jargon, he imparts his twisted logic and opinions on how their relationship should have worked. Hubbard starts by slighting Bolívar’s use of intelligence, as well as his tactical and strategic acumen, Hubbard makes disparaging remarks as to Bolívar’s personality traits, motivations and supposed “failures” in life, primarily as they relate to Hubbard’s ideal application of power in all its forms.

Manuela fares no better, as in Hubbard’s estimation, she fails to further Bolívar’s place in society and his projection and manipulation of power, and eventually dismissing her as “unknown to history” for this and other transgressions. It’s important to note that “intelligence” in this context, refers to  Bolívar’s use of spies, etc., rather than his ability to think. Immediately we see Hubbard interject his obsession with intelligence gathering, espionage and all things covert, as a means of assessing someone’s abilities; were he framing his views in Machiavellian parameters, this might be germane to the discussion at this early stage. However, though he appears to be talking about leaders, we now understand this to mean those in power, rather than those who lead. Nowhere is leadership as a construct even discussed; Hubbard’s idea of leadership is all about control and the exercise of power, as executed through manipulative, coercive and dictatorial behavior. Such motivations are grounded in a ruthless absolutism, justified through a utilitarian, amoral and antithetical worldview, and as we will see, often results in outcomes that include outright criminality.

Ethics, Power and The Responsibilities of Leaders

In researching this piece, I found several excellent analyses of The Responsibility of Leaders, not surprisingly, from former Scientologists. The first, an essay by Brian Lambert on Mike Rinder’s blog, and the second, a Q and A with Jefferson Hawkins on Tony Ortega’s “The Underground Bunker.” 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, as he uses it to illustrate what he literally expects from his subordinates in terms of loyalty, ruthlessness, and Keeping Scientology Working; Brian and Jefferson then go on to offer differing perspectives on The Responsibility of Leaders as seen in the following examples:  

Brian Lambert’s thesis is that The Responsibility of Leaders is intrinsic to understanding David Miscavige’s personal development as a Scientologist, and more so, how under his management, Scientology became such a vicious, malevolent organization. He frames this view of The Responsibility of Leaders as: “The L. Ron Hubbard doctrine on power; an instruction on violence to protect and keep power; the basic basic doctrine that educated David Miscavige on the virtues of leadership (use strike out through leadership) thuggery.” He then begins his analysis by saying:

These seem to be never ending questions:

  • How did Scientologists end up being so inhumane and heartless?
  • How can David Miscavige live with himself?
  • How can Scientologists not see that what they are doing is just wrong, indecent and evil?
  • This essay seeks to give at least some sort of answer to those questions.

These inhumane traits are no accident. They were acquired through Scientology training. Just as “The GE (Genetic Entity) is a Family Man” denigrates the family unit, The Responsibility of Leaders numbs and occludes our innate sense of right and wrong; conscience. The result is inhumanity as a style of Scientology leadership, for the “greater good.”

My purpose in writing this essay is to connect the dots between L. Ron Hubbard’s writing The Responsibility of Leaders and David Miscavige’s character development from a young, angry, naive boy; into a tyrant devoid of conscience and common standards of decency. It is my belief that David Miscavige was, to a very large degree, created by L. Ron Hubbard’s writings. Once The Responsibility of Leaders became internalized, accepted as true, and applied by David, the violence trickled down into the organization; as a “religious” responsibility. The destruction and violence against critics, common citizens, fellow Sea Org members, and the family unit, then became an essential religious rite designed to save the universe by protecting the god father of the Scientology regime; through violence. The political philosophy of The Responsibility of Leaders became David Miscavige’s instruction manual for leadership in the Church of Scientology. It is an accurate reflection of his personality and answers the question, ”How did he get like this?”

In his Q and A with Tony Ortega, Jefferson Hawkins takes a different approach in discussing The Responsibility of Leaders, discussing it first as a means of control for Miscavige, and crucially, how it relates to Hubbard’s twisted notions of power and his utilitarian ethics in the context of Scientology “Ethics Conditions,” those Hubbard-derived determinants of one’s moral behavior and their relative level of “goodness” or “badness” within Scientology.  His observations on Hubbard’s yardstick for failure is particularly illuminating, and serves to expose Hubbard’s crass materialistic worldview along with his abject disdain for anything of unquantifiable value:

THE BUNKER: Where are we going today in L. Ron Hubbard’s world of ethics, Jeff?

JEFFERSON: This week we have a treat — Scientology leader David Miscavige’s favorite L. Ron Hubbard essay. It’s Chapter 6 of the book Introduction to Scientology Ethics, and it’s called “The Responsibilities of Leaders.”

THE BUNKER: Really? Miscavige’s favorite essay?

JEFFERSON: I’m not joking. He had everyone on the Base read it and word clear it many, many times. If you disrespected him in any way you got crammed on it. If you failed to comply with his orders you got crammed on it. And one year, he even sent specially bound copies to all of the top celebrities so they would know what was expected of them.

THE BUNKER: And by “word clearing,” you mean look up every unfamiliar word in a dictionary, a Scientology obsession. So what is this essay about?

JEFFERSON: It’s about power, which, as we covered last week, Hubbard considered to be the highest “Ethics Condition.” Ostensibly, the essay is a book review. Hubbard had read a book called The Four Seasons of Manuela, written in 1952 by Victor Wolfgang von Hagen, which was a biography of Simon Bolivar, the South American revolutionary leader, and his mistress, Manuela Sáenz.

He states at the beginning that he considers that Bolivar and Sáenz “failed.” It’s interesting that a lot of Hubbard’s philosophical ramblings begin with the premise that this or that philosopher or historical figure “failed.” His main yardstick for failure in this case seems to be that they both “died in poverty.” Sure, they achieved their goal of liberating South America, but they didn’t then consolidate their personal power or use it to make a fortune for themselves, their family and close supporters. So in Hubbard’s mind, they failed! He then does a lengthy analysis of what he considered the “errors” of Bolivar and Sáenz.

THE BUNKER: That seems a bit ironic, considering Hubbard’s condition at the end of his own life. What did he see as Bolivar’s failings?

JEFFERSON: In Hubbard’s view, Bolivar was a supremely vain, idealistic man who thought he could “glow things right” but who lacked the practical organizational skills and the ruthlessness to ensure political and personal victory. As an example, he thought Bolivar should have sequestered all of the property of the royalists (those who supported Spain) so that he could give it to his own friends and supporters. And he suggested that Bolivar should have appointed his officers and supporters to all key government positions, thus ensuring complete control of the wealth and power of the nation.

Hubbard on the Ruthlessness of Power

Both Brian and Jefferson make extensive use of quotations from The Responsibility of Leaders to illustrate Hubbard’s observations and opinions on the faults of Manuela, but more so, as a means to emphasize the tone of menace and violence that permeates Hubbard’s argument. Here’s a sample of what Hubbard had to say about Bolívar’s and Manuela’s failings and on the traits and exercise of power, thematically grouped:

Manuela’s failings:

“She knew for years Santander [Bolívar’s political rival] had to be killed. She said or wrote it every few days. Yet never did she promise some young officer a nice night or a handful of gold to do it in a day when dueling was in fashion…”

“She was a fantastic intelligence officer. But she fed her data to a man who could not act to protect himself or friends, who could only fight armies dramatically. She did not see this and also quietly take on the portfolio of secret police chief…”

“…she never collected or forged or stole any documents to bring down enemies…”

“In a land of for-sale Indians, she never used a penny to buy a quick knife or even a solid piece of evidence…”

“She never handed over any daughter of a family clamoring against her to Negro troops and then said, “Which oververbal family is next?

“Yet never did she (Manuela) promise some young officer a nice night or a handful of gold to do it (kill) in a day when dueling was in fashion.”


“It is a frightening level of bravery to use men you know can be cruel, vicious and incompetent.”

“She was not ruthless enough to make up for his (Bolivar’s) lack of ruthlessness………….”

Murder specifically:

“He (Bolivar) never began to recognize a Suppressive and never considered anyone needed killing except on a battlefield”

“She never bought a plank or a rope.”

“Life bleeds. It suffers. It hungers. And it has to have the right to shoot its enemies until such time as comes a golden age.”

Criminality in furtherance of one’s goals:

“When you move off a point of power, pay all your obligations on the nail, empower all your friends completely and move off with your pockets full of artillery, potential blackmail on every erstwhile rival, unlimited funds in your private account and the addresses of experienced assassins and go live in Bulgravia (sic) and bribe the police.”

In Conclusion

I encourage readers to further explore both pieces, as they contain additional insights and quotes that illustrate Hubbard’s extreme expectations of those who wield power and who serve those in power. It’s clear that Hubbard’s ideal in exercising power is that the ends justify the means above all else. More so, that power moves unilaterally, in that a follower subordinates the entirety of his will, morality, and ethical boundaries to the one holding power. There is no even exchange nor elasticity in one’s loyalty; fealty is absolute and subordinates must be willing to do do anything to maintain a leader’s position, power and influence.

In my next post, I’ll contrast Hubbard’s ideal power model with concepts of traditional forms of leadership, as well as offering some historical analysis as to Hubbard’s more personal motivations in writing The Responsibilities of Leaders. There are interesting parallels and historical precedents evident in The Responsibilities of Leaders that coincide with his relationship with Mary Sue Hubbard, and to some extent, may also be applicable to David Miscavige’s relationship with his wife Shelley.