Summary: The leadership principles we must adopt as Christian leaders are those of Jesus, not of the world.
Tuesday before Lent
Not quite twenty years ago, Wess Roberts published a book entitled Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun. He later confessed that he chose Attila as his title character because so little is known about the Hun leader. It was, therefore, easy to impose Roberts’ own leadership principles on the barbarian king.
One of the first chapters is entitled “The Lust for Leadership–You’ve Got to Want to Be in Charge.” The world agrees–the successful leader is one who plots and schemes and works overtime to attain power and prestige. Then, once he has it, he quashes his rivals and makes certain everyone is intensely loyal to him by carefully distributing honors and awards. Reward the winners and discard the losers. That builds long-term success and reduces long-term risk.
But Sirach and Jesus agree that this is precisely wrong, for if we are to be effective Catholic leaders, we have to lead as God did–with compassion and mercy. We take risks to help others and expect to be tempted and tried by fire, and even humiliated.
Jesus was not an effective leader. Not by the world’s standards. After all, in the corporate crisis, nobody bailed him out and his entire staff ran out on him. His chief operating officer denied him three times and only his mother and his office gofer were with him at his death. And yet, in that moment, his leadership action, his willingness to be the suffering servant, changed everything in human history.
If we are to be effective leaders in the Church, we must emulate Jesus, not Attila. Success is not our goal, at least not success in terms of dollars, numbers, and honors. Our goal is the salvation of the lost, the growth of a servant Church. To make that happen, we have to take risks, we have to put others’ needs before our own, and often we have to take up our cross. Let’s determine that this Lent will be a new lap in that important growth discipline.