November 9, 2018
Our early American predecessors lived in times of tremendous social change. Sometimes we overly romanticize their lives, forgetting their environment of fear, social unrest, “Indian” atrocities, counter-reaction colonialists’ atrocities, slave rebellions, fear-mongering propagandists, intercultural conflicts, and the terrorism spread by rumors of foreign intrigue.
Almost two decades into the third millennium, our country and our world are changing even more dramatically. Fear and anxiety are byproducts. The pace of change is accelerating.
A bit ironically, a great many contemporary people are anxiously trying to maintain their identity as their very identity itself is changing. White Christian America, for example as I mentioned last week, is diminishing as a new form of American culture is evolving: multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, and multi-religious. These elements, in fact, are what makes America great.
The changing U.S. cultural landscape is more our challenge than our danger. We have always been a country of immigrants.
Human problems require human solutions, people need to work together. Otherwise, we disintegrate in feverish polarized chaos.
We all need to refine and exercise constructive leadership skills. At the same time, we need to critique and disempower those “leaders,” in religion as well as in politics, who do not lead but control. They are not real leaders, but self-promoting authoritarian managers, whose values and behavior oppose genuine Christianity and authentic democracy.
What qualities characterize genuine and constructive leaders?
(1) Genuine leaders are honest and transparent. They have integrity. They neither manipulate people nor play with the truth. They do not fear criticism, but understand criticism as a call to evaluate personal goals and behavior.
(2) Constructive leaders create a vision of the future that is realistic and compelling. They are not afraid of change, but see it as a part of the human experience and an ongoing human challenge. They understand the socio-cultural changes on the horizon as new opportunities for human transformation and growth.
(3) Genuine leaders inspire and motivate. They help people engage with the present and build a more humane tomorrow. They reflect deeply on the signs of the times.
(4) Constructive leaders analyze and solve problems. They observe, judge, and act in collaborative problem-solving. Yes they are often recruited, trained, and chosen to solve problems. But they don’t do it alone. They cannot do it alone.
(5) Some people are very content to sit back and watch the world go by. Or they long to return to some romanticized former time, like the 1950s…..Constructive and genuine leaders have a higher level of perseverance. They have vision but are not daydreamers. They can be counted on to get things done. They move ahead. They don’t live in the past.
(6) Genuine leaders build on solid foundations of mutual respect and trust. They do not denigrate people but lift them up. The stronger the interpersonal relationships, the better the leadership.
(7) Constructive leaders communicate with their people. They listen to them. They stimulate and promote collaborative leadership.
(8) Some leaders, sad to say, are mis-leaders. They use and abuse people to advance their own self-promoting agendas or destructively racist and xenophobic programs. We must work to eventually remove them from office. The more important and more immediate task, however, is to impede their programs and projects right now.
(9) We are all called to exercise leadership: it is called individual and social responsibility. Power over people is not a virtue; and history shows again and again that in religion and in civil society absolute power corrupts absolutely.
(10) Jesus of Nazareth was a genuine and constructive Leader. In his life we find our Way, Truth, and Life.