I have been a student of leadership for the majority of my life. From our presidents, both past and present, to leaders across the world such as, Gold Meier, and Winston Churchill, as well as religious leaders…and of course University managers and administrators. The concept of how a person has either the natural skills or learned processes…to be able to motivate and inspire others to follow them, is fascinating! I marveled, as a child, at the ability of former president John Kennedy….To inspire a nation to service and altruism. When he said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you…but what you can do for your country,’ thousands of Americans joined the Peace Corps. My mom spoke of president Franklin D. Roosevelt as if he were a member of our family. He took office in the midst of the Great Depression…and that was followed by World War II. Through the brilliance of his natural charisma and his fireside chats…the, suffering, people of the United States understood that their president cared about them and that he was working in their best interest…and they were inspired to join him in the herculean effort of recovering from the Depression and the wining of WWII!
I have witnessed great leaders and some who were not so great. When I see a leader who relishes their, perceived, position of authority over other members of the human family…I am taken aback! Another perplexing proclivity of some leaders is they’re, mental separation from the group that they are supervising. Somehow…there is an, us and them misperception by many who have been asked to take on the duties and responsibilities of being a leader of both small and large groups of people. These are people that were a member of the group…but now feel that they have been elevated in understanding and wisdom…and that they know, inherently, what is best for the, ‘lower class,’ who do to have the ability to think for themselves….
I have been a member of more than one church over the past 51 years. On more than one occasion I have felt that my opinion did not seem to matter…and that the news of changes that leadership was making…never trickled down to me and my family. Now these are churches that I worked hard in and was faithful to and gave money for…yet…I have been struck with more than one leadership surprise that felt as if that I was being told, ‘like it or lump it!’ I have been an; elder or a trustee or a deacon, in every church that I have been a member of, since 1969…but it has always been so on a reluctant basis. Why, you might ask? Well, it would be because I am convinced that I have little to offer in the way of leadership. Both of my management positions at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…I had to be talked into… I firmly believe that the precious members of a church congregation that never feel the calling to serve as a leader…are more important than…we leaders…
I heard a minister say, years ago, that if you have been entrusted with a leadership position…you should hold it with a loose grasp! I quoted the admonishment to the members of my staff…many times over my 25 years as a manager/administrator. It has been my lifelong experience and my heartfelt conviction that God calls we members of our church congregation to specific missions and goals and defined needs. When the, temporary, leadership assignment has been completed…we should joyfully return to the congregation…which is….God’s Heart!