Spirituality for Today – January 2009 – Volume 13, Issue 6

Editorial - Leadership

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

Not surprisingly, the topic of leadership currently is on the mind and on the lips of the nation. Whether the mantle of leader is placed upon the shoulders of another or of one's self, the characteristics of being a leader and the nature and quality of leadership becomes the paramount concern of both the leader and the led. Being empowered by the people to act in their best interest is an overwhelming responsibility. Those who seek that mandate are bound morally to be introspective and evaluative about the policies they pursue and the motives for pursing them. Chosen officials always need to be cognizant of the fact that they are a conscience filled with values and beliefs for which they have received the trust of the people. Throughout history, leaders have respected and also have ignored that trust. Thus, many leaders are being cheered on by an electorate with their fingers crossed.

Being empowered by the people to act in their best interest is an overwhelming responsibility

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler wrote thus of leadership, "The art of leadership consists in consolidating the attention of the people against a single adversary and taking care that nothing will split up that attention… The leader of genius must have the ability to make different opponents appear as if they belong to one category." From this quotation, intrigue and deceit are noted as essential aspects of Hitler's understanding of leadership.

In the nineteenth century, the author and traveler, M. E. W. Sherwood remarked, "I would say tact was worth more than wealth as a road to leadership… I mean that subtle apprehension which teaches a person how to do and say the right thing at the right time. It coexists with very ordinary qualities; and yet many great geniuses are without it. Of all human qualities, I consider it the most convenient – not always the highest, yet I would rather have it than many more shining qualities." Although Mrs. Sherwood's words contain a hint of ambiguity, the positive trait of being attuned to an issue or a situation bodes well for the effective leader.

From these two contrasting views of what makes an outstanding leader, one might reckon that the content of the character of the man or woman taking up the task of leadership indicates the quality as well as the destiny of that leader. Power may be used to dominate or to serve. The temptation to distort service into oppression is great. Tyranny's seductiveness lies in the leader's unassailable belief that his or her actions draw their lofty rectitude or their regrettable necessity from the possession of a supreme genius standing above and beyond the comprehension of the masses. Although it may depend primarily on intuition, discovering an innate goodness in the make-up of a candidate ought to be placed very high in a voter's process of judgment.

Considering the leadership of Jesus Christ, I am inclined to borrow the words of the journalist and commentator, Walter Lippmann who said, "The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on." Of course, that "will to carry on" was not based simply on a noble ideal or a loving sentiment, but on the saving grace and indwelling Spirit of God. The message and focus of Jesus' teaching would provide a magnificent foundation for any individual leader. Let the essence and energy of true leadership rest on the highest human virtues revealed in the Word made flesh.