What Is True Leadership?

How can responsible people respond to the multiplicity of crises confronting us?  How can we best protect our families and strengthen our communities?  We have been discussing the growing need to create safety in the face of deteriorating conditions.  You don’t need me to draw you a picture.

What does it mean to take initiative?  I invite you to think about this constructively.  We will need to rethink our assumptions about the nature of leadership.

We see examples of assertive, self-styled leadership on the news every night—people who want us to think they have everything all figured out.  I think most of you know this is not what we need. In a rapidly deteriorating social order, safety and security are actually local concerns.  To think and act responsibly will mean engaging effectively with our neighbors, regardless of our differences.

I do not think we will get very far if we depend on those we see parading themselves self-assuredly on the evening news.

In the oncoming confluence of crises, effective problem-solving will depend on our neighbors. And it will only begin when we engage with respectful sensitivity in every interpersonal relationship.

Taking initiative does not, and should not, be associated with leadership in the usual sense. We have never imagined facing such extraordinary circumstances.  It is understandable to doubt ones’ own capabilities.  But there is work to be done.  Needs must be met and conflicts averted. 

As individual citizens we are called to recognize and respond to immediate local needs as they present themselves.  None of us can resolve the great questions and complexities in today’s world.  But necessities will confront us each day with real consequences.

We are not helpless.  Words can be misunderstood and people can be manipulated, but consistent responsible action speaks for itself.  It will never be too soon to initiate dialog and foster collaboration.

I will share a few thoughts here on personal initiative and collaboration.

When forming relationships with neighbors you may find your efforts appreciated by only a few.  Do not be disheartened!  Even a small number of those ready to listen will allow productive endeavors to take root.  A nucleus of thoughtful citizens can consult about local needs, begin to plan, and build trust.

Your initiative will be appreciated by perceptive neighbors.  Indeed, some may project a leadership role on you against your wishes.  This could become problematic.  You will not be happy with the consequences of such assumptions.

With the nation in a devastating downward spiral of dishonesty, delusional behavior, and pervasive fear, true leadership has never been more needed.  But, never has it been perceived with greater suspicion.  Responding effectively to clearly apparent needs will not be possible if we present ourselves as lightning rods.

Responsibility and constructive action are integrally related.  We can invite others to join us in exploring how this works.  Leadership is best shared and understood as grounded in the community itself.

In authentic community, true leadership assists us to overcome fear and hesitation.  It encourages responsibility and fosters trust.  Effective leadership can see the end in the beginning, and understands the road ahead when others only see stumbling blocks. 

Leadership remains calm in the fog of uncertainty, and unperturbed by the anxieties of others.  It patiently gathers frightened or troublesome people to unite in response to practical necessity.

This kind of leadership proceeds with a self-effacing demeanor and a low profile.  It often goes unrecognized, and this is as it should be.

When a genuine leader has been effective, a community will feel they have been assisted to take on challenges and win success for themselves.  And, when a truly great leader has been present, people will say only, we did this ourselves.


You may watch for the next post on or about May 1.

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