Leadership and Community

“I increasingly see how difficult it is to exercise authority in community. Community of any kind. We are so inclined to want authority for the honor, prestige or admiration that comes with it. Inside each of us is a little tyrant who wants power and associated recognition, who wants to dominate, be superior, and to control.

We are frightened of criticism, we feel we are the only ones who see truth, and that, sometimes, in the name of God. We interfere with the work of others, taking charge of everything and jealously guarding our authority. Others are reduced to carrying out our ideas, as if they are incapable of making good choices and decisions themselves. Everyone is reduced to a rival.

We only allow freedom when it doesn’t challenge or threaten our own authority, and when we can control their “freedom.” Rivalry for power between members of the community and jealousy of others’ radiance is a terrible force of destruction. A united community is like a rock; a community or organization divided against itself, ultimately cannot prosper, and will destroy itself.” – Jean Vanier – Community and Growth

In the Leadership Development aspects of EIS, we spend alot of time on the concept of learning to lead from “the inside out”. This means that the attributes of a healthy strong leader need to be cultivated, over the development of skills and business savvy. Being financially successful does not make one a leader automatically. I personally know people who did well financially, but lacked humility, lacked living right in their marriage, lacked integrity and character, didn’t truly know themselves, lived out of their false selves. They are like flowers that bloom and catch the eye, and then fade away when the demands of true, loving leadership are placed upon them.

I’ve seen “successful” people get “rich”, live the easy life, get “fat and happy,” and lose it all… the deepest loss, that of core vision for their lives, marriage and family. This is what the Bible terms, ” What is it if a man gain the whole world, and lose his soul.”

Finally for our discussion today, you need to be a follower to be a leader. Following a true leader humbly, will give you the opportunity to be vulnerable, accountable, free to fail, free to get up, free to discover and walk in your purpose with vision. Falling under someone who is walking in their calling and living out their vision, will not only show you the way, but will give you the humility you need to become a true leader.

QUICK STORY: Way back while at New York City Relief, we had an internship program. There was a young man that I really saw great potential in…we were friends, and I took him under my wing. He had his issues of course and bumblings. One day I tried to find him in our building as I had given him a job to do. I got off the elevator and caught him sitting in a room talking on his ministry phone with who knows who, but wasting time when he should have been doing what he was asked to do.

I told him I was disappointed that he would make a choice to do that. He angrily said; ” when do I get to make my own choices and decisions!?” I said, when you demonstrate the integrity and trustworthiness that shows you are capable of doing so. His pride got the best of him, and that continued, as his jealousies would be demonstrated in many other areas. We remain friends today, but he did not leave well, though we had ultimately made him a leader. He never developed the internal goods to support his position. (He is still a super great guy none-the-less). But being a great leader takes more than being a super great guy.

You must trade in your pride and ego for humility and love.

BH /Jean Vanier; Community and Growth (Adapted)

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