Authentic Leadership is Tested Leadership

Anyone can tell you how much they care about you.  Talk is mighty cheap for a human being.  When a test comes we all find out just how much you care.  How does a test come for men sitting in leadership seats?  The test comes when there’s a perceived personal cost threatening that leader’s wealth, power, honor, or pleasure.  When that man perceives a risk to his wealth, power, honor, or pleasures we will all find out what he’s made of.  I believe it was Saint Thomas Aquinas who provided the above listed four things we tend to elevate into false idols, fake little gods. As human beings our fallen nature tends towards extremes.  We have a problem with balance.  We have a problem with attachments.

At the very moment doing the next right thing could affect your position and salary your people get to observe you enter into a test.  Is it about you – or is it for your people?  I submit authentic leadership is for your people!   Titles often mean authority.  Another word for authority is power.   What do you do with the power?  Do you use the power for yourself or for your people?  In my opinion, authority properly understood means responsibility.   A responsibility for those whom you’ve been given the authority to lead.  Are you seeing a pattern here?  Authentic leadership is for your people! Honor has much to do with what other people think of you.  Those who are overly attached to the opinions of men need to either find a way to detach from their fears or anxieties associated with honor; or step down and let someone else lead.  That is not an option within the right structure of a family.  If you’re the father of a family do not rest until you detach from the fear of human respect.  Lay waste to the idea of instant gratification and throttle down on the idea of delayed satisfaction.  Pleasure is probably the most difficult temptation to overcome. 

“More Souls Go To HELL Because Of The Sins Of The Flesh Than For Any Other Reason.”  

Mary, Mother of God @Fatima

When I think about this temptation as it relates to authentic leadership I can’t help but think of a certain kind of lifestyle.  A lifestyle which elevates a man by means of all four of these things: wealth, power, pleasure, and honors.   The temptation to rationalize or self-justify would loom large because we’ll be tempted to weigh how doing that next right hard thing could affect our wife and children – our family.  A correct way of desiring a leadership position is with a wee bit of apprehension knowing that at the end of this life we’re all going to have to answer for everything we said and did and failed to say and do. In Luke chapter 12 we recall the words: Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.

One common rationalization is the idea that our silence will enable us to carry on the overall mission making a difference for those whom God sends us. I think this is true up to a point. Prudence is most definitely a good thing so long as we don’t use it as an excuse to preserve our own wealth, power, pleasure, and honors. A quote purportedly from Edmund Burke says:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Evil is a liar! Evil will tell you it merely desires a seat at the table.  Once it acquires that seat then it seeks to rape and murder everyone else at the table only to end by sitting the whole house on fire.

What’s the solution?  The hardest direction to lead is to lead up.  Providing your house doesn’t conduct itself like a permissive parent you can lead down quite easily through discipline, actual accountability, and consequences for bad behaviors.  How do we lead up?  This probably should be a whole different post but the secret if there is one is all relationships are built upon trust.  So the subordinate must convey to the boss that he has that bosses best interest in mind.  While his suggestions on next right things may seem painful for the boss to hear, the subordinate articulates specifically how a bad choice will blow up in his bosses face.  The bottom line here is the solution is to tell the truth:  ‘Horse, here is some water.  Water is good for you.  Please drink the good water.’  You then leave the person free to go their own way.  If their decision is immoral, unethical, or illegal then depending upon your duty you take that next right moral, ethical, or legal action that your position demands.   You willingly accept the sufferings that duty brings with it.

If you find yourself in a leadership seat realize that when a test comes your people are going to find you out! No amount of sentimental words will ever make up for bad actions. You want the mantle of leadership? Prepare for some heavy crosses and a crown of thorns. Pray for the graces to pass the test.