Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Fresh Look at Leadership.

Post 384 - In the widening gap between what we want and expect from our leaders and what we're currently getting, it seems sensible to take a fresh look at leadership. Walter Lippmann defined leaders as "the custodians of a nation's ideals, of the beliefs it cherishes, of its permanent hopes, of the faith which makes a nation out of a mere aggregation of individuals."

True leadership has always been a selfless act because it involves taking yourself out of the picture and considering the needs of others even when your own needs are pressing. It asks what's right or best in the wider interest. Few would question the need for more leaders today like George Washington. Washington, who served two terms as the first President of the United States, is remembered for his strength of character and discipline, his loyal patriotism, his principled leadership, and his selfless devotion to public duty. He held in trust for the American people the very values and beliefs that made this nation possible without regard for his own gain. He completed the job he was asked to do, then refused a third term and went back to his farm in Virginia. While he was president, he provided strong direction and didn't merely register the popular will of the people.

Leadership is an issue that affects us all because not only are we impacted by it, but we're also all called upon to exercise it. Whether we're involved in leading government or business, guiding young minds, leading a family, standing for what’s right, or organizing a household, everyone has a leadership role to play. We're each thrust into many different leadership roles again and again throughout our lives. As a result, we're called upon to be custodians of what’s right and good, lasting and of value, for those in our care.

Michael McKinney writes that with true leaders, their boundaries always come from something outside themselves. George Washington believed that those values and boundaries came from God. In his first Inaugural Address, he asserted that "we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained." An effective leader has an agenda designed to produce results, but is guided by a core of values that come from outside and not from within. This process is maintained by means of the leader's integrity or custodianship of those values.

One of the most observant political thinkers, Niccolò Machiavelli, wrote that leadership is virtuous only if the good of the community is sought out and achieved above all else. A good leader, in other words, is a steward and servant of the community. The true leader serves the best interests of others, and in doing so, he isn't always popular and he isn't always impressive. But because he's motivated by loving concern rather than a desire for personal glory, he's willing to pay that price.

According to Albert Schweitzer, "I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."

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