During the Season of Easter we have the opportunity to be inspired by the “acts” of the apostles and believers in Christ. Paul and Barnabas say the Lord has commanded them to be “a light to the Gentiles, that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth.” In reading this, I ask myself, when was the last time I was a light for someone or an instrument of salvation leading those around me to Christ? This is part of the call of our mission here and now…
In the Gospel I am comforted in the face of these hard questions by the image of the Good Shepherd: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me…no one can take them out of the Father’s hand…” As a shepherd does for his sheep, He will guide me, help me, and has already saved me! The Good Shepherd is the archetype for good leadership. I have often heard people denigrate the idea of following someone or something—calling others “sheeple.” The meaning of “archetype” is the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies: prototype; also: a perfect example. I would call God the perfect example of a good leader… I am happy being part of His flock!
In thinking about the qualities of leadership—why would I not follow a good leader? Here are some insights into what every good, human, servant-hearted, leader knows and practices whether in community, in the workplace, or in the classroom. Creative leaders are seers of alternatives. They move forward by influencing events and inspiring people more than by ordering or demanding. They know that every one-sided solution is doomed to failure (more than one way to skin a cat…). One sided-ness is never a lasting solution but only a postponement of any problem. Good leaders learn to study, discern, search together with others for solutions. They know that total dilemmas are very few. We create many of our dilemmas (problems) because we are internally stuck, attached, fearful, over-identified with our position, needy of winning the case, or unable to entertain even the partial truth that the other opinion might be offering. Sound familiar?
Good leaders know that wisdom is “the art of the possible.” The key question is no longer “How can I problem solve now and get this off my plate?” It is “How can this situation achieve good for the largest number and for future generations?” They continue finding and sharing new data and possibilities until they can work toward consensus from all sides. They want to increase both freedom and ownership among the group—not subservience, which will ultimately sabotage the work anyway. Good leaders emphasize the why of a decision and show how it is consistent with the group’s values.
In short, good leaders must have a certain capacity for thinking beyond polarities and tapping into full, embodied knowing (prayer). They have a tolerance for ambiguity (faith), an ability to hold creative tensions (hope), and an ability to care (love) beyond their own personal advantage. (Thanks, Rev. Rohr!) Last weekend in the Gospel Jesus told us to follow Him. In the Second Reading from the Book of Revelation this week we hear that we will be led to life-giving water, and God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. The disciples experienced persecution for their faith, yet they were “filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” The danger we experience as believers is not like the persecution of St. Paul and others, but there is an inherent danger for our Spirits as believers, none-the-less. Our persecution is more subtle and insidious: we are victimized and persecuted by media hype for other gods and other values, by confusion and chaos perpetrated on us by greed, selfishness and sin. We need to be good faith leaders to those around us.
This third part of our salvation history is still being written. What will be written of us and our acts as disciples? I try to always keep present that The Lord is My Shepherd—The King of Love My Shepherd Is! I will follow Him.
Just a Note: Here is a lovely setting of the 23rd Psalm… The Lord is My Shepherd.