Take Me to Your Leader: Who Do You Emulate? Part I
I have had the privilege of enjoying many opportunities in my life. Getting started right off from the starting block, I received a commission as an Air Force Officer at college graduation and I was barely this side of the age of majority. I was assigned to an Air Force Base in Southern California, my first real stint away from home. All the courses and onsite training during the ROTC days could only give you a glimmer of what was truly required of you as a leader. Once the thrill of getting your salute wore off, the work began. I worked within a squadron organization for this Colonel as his Executive Officer, between me and the First Sergeant we were supposed to maintain discipline in the ranks. This regarded enforcement of Air Force regulations and dealing with trouble that mostly junior enlisted members were getting into while outside of the base. This could include everything from haircuts, skirt lengths or admonishing those that wrote ‘bad checks’. I was hardly more than a kid myself, living in Southern California at the height of the disco craze. I was known as Lieutenant Flap, a character from the Beetle Bailey comic strip, who had a big afro with a cap precariously balancing on top. The First Sergeant or first shirt, as he was fondly known, nudged me every now and then to get a haircut. This guy had enlisted into the armed forces prior to my birth, so I tried to listen carefully to those like him that knew and had my success and best interests at heart so that I looked good before the Colonel. His job was to groom lieutenants and prepare me to face the reality that the personnel that I was to evaluate and judge which under most circumstances could have easily been my peers, were, in fact, anything but. You, as a junior officer was responsible for enforcing the rules and that meant that you couldn’t be fraternizing and allowing those that you supervise to become familiar. As a representative of the ‘system’ all eyes were on you to see if you were setting the example and with the impetuousness of youth still tugging at me, this was a weighty burden to carry. Everybody said that the at the NCO club, ‘the joint was jumping’ and that was where you could meet members of the fairer sex. In comparison, the Officers Club reminded me of a funeral parlor, right down to the lace curtains on the windows. It was completely “Baa Baa, Black Sheep”. For you younger ones, this was a 70’s television program starring Robert Conrad, that dealt with the exploits of WWII era fighter pilots. Well at that time, many of the senior officers and retired were there at the club swapping stories about their experience as WWII and Korean War fighter pilots, it wasn’t easy for me to relate. I worked with the Base Judge Advocate’s office to prepare bad conduct discharges to remove members from the service as well as routinely issue Article 15s, administrative punishment, to errant members of our squadron. True leadership is both a science and an art. I was getting the textbook science down, but the art, where naturally thinking and being the part took a little longer.
Some things that I look for in a leader
1. Putting your people first
2. Placing your ego on the shelf
3. Lead by example
4. Show confidence in subordinates and their abilities to do their job
5. Be unquestionably fair and even handed in your dealings
6. Gracious and generous nature
7. Have superb analysis skills and good judgment
8. Have a personality and temperament that encourages subordinates to communicate with him or her.
Example: Spiritual - Jesus Christ of Nazareth
This individual, when one reads the Hebrew scriptures of the Bible hits all the hot spots for being a great leader. Wasn’t it He that made the sacrifice of His life on behalf of all condemned sinners so that we could actually approach and be reconciled to God? How is it that this Lamb of God allowed himself to be subjected to rather harsh conditions of life on Earth at the time? Second in stature only to God himself, He need not have subjected himself to all the discomfort experienced during His ministry. It is obvious from the scriptures that He had virtually unlimited powers over matter and energy, life and death but never used them to His own advantage to ease the burden on Himself in the face of so important a mission to humanity.
Even though He had God’s power to use as He so required, He put his ego on the shelf and focused on the purpose for which God sent Him. This is to set a good example and make it clear by His priorities, what ours should be.
How often in the scriptures does He set the example and make spectacles of hypocrites. He had said that He hardly had a place to lay His head while even the animals had relative security. When He asks us to ‘turn the other cheek’ He shows how that could be done, while reviled He did not go reviling even as His tormentors taunted him prior to His execution.
He criticizes the religious leaders of the time for gross hypocrisy and for failing to live up to the standard of impartiality. He accused them of always taking the most prominent place and giving those with the most resources the most prominent places at places of worship. How much of that are we seeing today? Envision the almost garish mega churches that are as much places of business as they are places of worship. This is a far cry from a man who deliberately shunned the commercial system to the point that He had no reliable place of shelter. What was it that Jesus did with the money changers in a place of worship when He found them? How do we reconcile His message with holy jihads and pedophile priests?
Did He not give authority to His disciples showing full confidence in them even after they betrayed Him to the authorities? What a relief when your supervisor is gracious and not condemning you for every error that you might make in doing your job.
Jesus’ analytical skills and judgment were of a divine nature, but much of His judgment is derived from principles shown in the scriptures that we are encouraged to employ. Jesus was approachable, even by children. He was not afraid to confront prominent religious leaders with their error yet walked hand in hand with children and lepers, setting the example.
Mahatmas Gandhi once said that although he was Hindu, he believed that if people truly followed the teachings of Jesus this would be a far less contentious world. While I am not advocating or attacking any religious faith specifically, I wish people would do some more critical thinking. The problem with culture conservatives is that I am not concerned whether the Founding Fathers were Judeo-Christian, as if somehow the fact that they were means that we all must be to be true Americans. But, they were truly unable to practice their faith without glaring hypocrisy. Beating people over the head with a bible does not solve anything, but, on the other hand is going to make others that much more resistant. What they should do is let their GOOD example move others to action. That is leadership and it is truly infectious if the primary components are met. There are some decisions in life that are as individual as a fingerprint. When it comes to this topic we must all resolve to allow each to discover or not discover the truth for him or herself. Sorry, but I had to get that plug in there. It is not just the conservatives, either, I dismissed Jesse Jackson who failed to keep his pants zipped and allowed himself as a married man to have an extramarital relationship with a teenaged girl, making this girl pregnant in the process. I said this to show that I will not abide hypocrisy from either side of the ideological ledger. If you want to be my leader you need to prepare for and expect to be held to higher standard of behavior.
I promise to come down from Mt.Olympus now and look at a couple of other good examples of leadership in Part II