Sunday, September 20, 2009

Follow the Leader

I doubt anyone would argue that we, as a society, find ourselves in a crises of strong, trustworthy, unwavering, all-encompasing leadership.

It seems that weekly I encounter someone or another ranting about the current "leadership vacuum" in our midst. Whether at work, in the political arena, in our local schools or at church ... we struggle to find that consumate "Reagan-esque" style that demands our attention, draws our respect and drives us to heights of greatness. We hunger for it - we seek it out, we wait endlessly and we lose our faith in humanity when failure rears its ugly head once again.

We know what we are "not" looking for in a leader: smarminess, agendas, egoes, liars, cruelty, arrogance, control-freaks, rule-breakers and snobs. To name a few.

We can also spot the wannabees a mile away. Sometimes they still have pinky rings, pocket hankies and too much hairspray - other times they are just a little "too" cool as they ditch conventional earmarks and try to fit-in, while telling us everything we want to hear.

It is painful to find such a gap in our lives. Is it the ultimate father figure we search for? What is the need, seated deep in our hearts, to wholeheartedly FOLLOW?

And .... WHY?

I have a confession to make: I'll admit this - I am an avid fan of the reality show, "Survivor". Yes, I am. Sorry to disappoint. One of the remaining few, I suppose ... but I don't find myself growing weary of the social experiment season after season. The participants directly reflect many faces of our culture, interacting and reacting, relating and hating, playing and calculating while in a forced relationship setting. It fascinates me continually. What never ceases to amaze me is the fact that a known game strategy is electing the guy you "love to hate" as the leader because he will surely get voted off as soon as he is recognized to be in charge.

Of course - it doesn't always work out that way for the conniving little plotters - but it has succeeded enough times that people will generally duck and cover desperately to avoid being pegged as leadership material.

I find it not so very different from home politics. We chop the heads off our leaders as quick as we can get them into office. It doesn't matter if it is a deacon, school principal, senator, PTA mom or office manager. We turn on our leadership and shred them for sport.

This is why the current term of a school principal is about 2 to 3 years and the typical superintendent lasts 1 to 2 years. We vote them out as fast as we can vote them in. How do we ever get ANYTHING accomplished? Does anyone realize that someone else's flunky is our "new hope"? Look at NFL coaches. If you don't win two Superbowls back-to-back you are outta there, Buddy. You did "what" last year? That doesn't matter. What matters is ... you lost TODAY.

Part of this is our "critical thinking" era ... where we love to point out the faults, weakenesses and failures of everything and everyone ... just to prove that we know something they don't.

But there has to be more to it than just that.

I happen to know some amazing individuals who will never throw their hat into any ring of leadership because of the impending microscope that will cite their detention in third grade, 3 late car payments and 6 visits to a marriage counselor. LOSER.

This is not to say that microscopes and critics aren't warranted and valid - accountability is needed now more than ever before. And we TRULY need leaders who desire those checks and balances with unquestionable integrity.

So where is the "balance" in all of this? How do we find the next "Great One" while we are digging around in their closets, gluing skeletons together out of dust bunnies?

I can certainly say that I have no answer for this - but there is a point that I am pondering that propelled me to blog:

Are we ourselves living a life of leadership that we demand in others?

This is the question I have been asking myself lately. It requires sticking your neck out. It takes quality character and active compassion. No burying your head in the sand. It is not about being all things to all people - but knowing who can fill the gaps and how to motivate people to do their part. It does take vision - but not the kind that dictates "all the answers". It has to be created by everyone, owned by everyone and pursued by everyone. A leader simply needs to keep it alive --- while allowing it to breathe and grow. Leadership requires humility and corresponding forgiveness & kindness.

Am I living that out in my life every day? Do I reflect this in my home, in my job, in my small group, behind the wheel of my car and when I am walking through the grocery store?

Ultimately - what we all want is JESUS. That is who we are looking under every rock to step up and perfectly guide us through the muck of life.

Looking to Him, while living LIKE Him --- would get us out of this mess far quicker than we are willing to admit.

In the meantime, I think we should make every effort not to criticize that which we cannot live out ourselves.

Just some random thoughts rattling around in my brain.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Inside My Mind With No Place To Go

I don't have many brilliant thoughts, but the thoughts I do have buzz around inside my head endlessly tapping, humming, strumming and bouncing back and forth trying to land in some semblance of sensibility.

Mostly I think about people. What makes them tick and why. How they relate, how they don't. How they get twisted up and out of sync. How they overcome and prevail. How they rise, how they fall. And rise up again. How they impact the world around them for better or for worse.

And always I want to know that one, elusive answer .... "WHY?!"

It's not that I have all the answers ... I certainly don't. I am simply continously fascinated by human interaction and the complexity of it.

These are a few of the great mysteries to me:

Why does mankind still not know what to say to a grieving fellow human being? Death is part of life. When will we figure it out?

Why do we insist on creating gods in our own image? We suck at it.

Why are some people so threatened by the success of others? Isn't any "good" thing worth getting happy about?

Why does "empowerment" seem to equate with rage and anger? It takes a far stronger person to live out kindness, regardless of the circumstances and responses of others.

Why do we still try to live up to other people's ideals of who we should be ... rather than living the life we were created to enjoy?

Why do we have such a difficult time moving from theory to reality?

Why do we still not understand that "rugged individualism" ruins us and relationships strengthen us?

What is it that we are all so afraid of? That keeps us from living life to the fullest? That prohibits us from building each other up and squeezing every moment of joy out of the journey?

I'm not talking about pretending there are aren't troubles and worries that preoccupy our lives and minds. I am familiar with the harsh realities of life that keep us bound to the ground under our feet instead of floating amongst the clouds like tethered helium balloons.

I'm also not suggesting we let every bozo without boundaries run roughshod over us - body, mind, soul and spirit while we sing "Kumbaya".

But in our own collective groups of family, friends, co-workers, church communities, acquaintances, neighbors ... etc. what is the basic, human need for created drama, for cold distances, for foreboding isolationism, for long and awkward silences, for sour grapes, for lonely seclusions, for harsh judgements, for quick crticisms, for lack of heartfelt empathy and for quiet withdrawals behind impenetrable walls and stony hearts?

I think the answer to what we're all afraid of ... is certainly each other ... and yet it begins in our minds. Sometimes the most dangerous place of all. Where we can believe lies about what other people think when they are worrying about their grocery list. Where we can become certain that we are the center of the joke when the laughter is innocent and carefree. Where we suspect and anticipate the next let-down before anyone has a chance to share a smile or say a kind word.

Inevitably - our minds - allowed free reign, will have us doing battle with the harmless while we fail to tackle the real challenges ... such as being the one who extends the warm greeting and takes the time to really mean it (and really hear the response) or dares to embrace the opportunity to make a difference in the life of someone placed in your path.

Recently I heard someone issue a challenge to "Counter the Culture". For me, that means swimming upstream in my own head.

Just some thoughts with no place to go ..............