Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Habits of Good Leaders

A number of years ago, I read a book on the history of Byzantium. Good stuff, but somewhat depressing to read about all the corruption in politics. This or that emperor killed his brother, married his sister, and engaged in various other forms of immorality that will not be mentioned here, etc. I like history, but I do not like the fact that so many people refuse to learn from history. I meet people regularly who have very little knowledge of history, and some even tell me that they just "learned the dates and stuff" in school, and then forgot it right after (typical "facts-in, facts-out" form of public education).

What I find so startling right now is that, in spite of the fact that history has so many examples of bad leaders getting themselves (and all around them) into horrible trouble, few seem to be learning from the errors in these historical examples. There are many events that I read about on the news that make me think that we are actually in a more corrupt situation than they were in the worst days of Byzantium. Leadership today is a quagmire of corruption and confusion. There are so few morally good civic leaders in the world these days that it is shocking when you actually come across one.

Leadership in the world is not terribly different from leadership in the Church. Yes, there are vast differences in duties and technical procedures; that is not what I am referring to though. I am speaking about the simple principle of what makes someone a good leader as opposed to a bad leader, and the principles are largely the same wherever the leadership is being applied.

Leadership in the Church has sought to follow the pattern of the leadership of God Himself. We call Him "Father" and His "father-ship" is applied to many areas. Firstly it is to applied to the physical father of a human family. Secondly it is to be applied to the spiritual father of the Church family. The manner in which God leads, as father, is crucial for us to understand if we are going to apply it to any other area in life.

So then, what is God's "father-ship" like? First of all, He actually leads. This means that He takes charge and tells His subjects what is good and right, and speaks clearly against what is bad and wrong. Second, He listens. This means that His authority does not eliminate His ability to pay attention. He is still able and willing to listen to those under Him when they bring to Him their concerns. It does not mean, however, that He needs to do everything that His subjects request of Him. "Help my team to win", or "kill my boss", are not requests that God can be expected to answer. Yet, He always listens. Third, He corrects. This means that when the subjects are doing something wrong, He will speak to them about it. Maybe He will wait a bit until they are more receptive, or until the circumstances are better, but He does not fail to bring correction.

Applying this principle to the Church, first, we find some clear and helpful guidelines for pastors of parishes to implement. Being "democratic" in the Church does not work; pastors need to be leaders. Refusing to hear the opinions of the laity does not work; pastors need to know what people are thinking and feeling. Letting people continue in their sin does not work either; pastors need to guide people in holiness so that they can discipline themselves (before the Church needs to do so).

We can also apply this principle to those leaders who are not in the Church. Whether political or business related, we will find the same encouragement. I know of a situation in which a group of people had a weak leader that would not listen to their cries for help, and he ignored the problems that surfaced as a result. This leader was later replaced by someone who was following the principles I outlined above. Some today might think that a strong leader stepping into that situation would be rejected. Exactly the opposite happened. The people came to the new leader after only a few months and said, "thank you for being a strong leader, we need this".

No one wants to be dominated, but we all appreciate (and enjoy) good leadership.We all know (down deep inside) that good loving leadership helps people to flourish in their circumstances and enables them to unite under a single purpose. Christ is that Head, truly more than anyone else. He does not, however, rule directly in every situation. Rather, He rules through those He appoints as His representatives. Whether that be a clergyman, a politician, or business manager, those who submit themselves to the headship of Christ, will find Him working through these representatives. They will find that it becomes easier to follow a good leader. They will find that Christ is on His throne, and that He does minister to us in many ways.