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.

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