When we are leaders -- meaning, when we are responsible for representing a vision and a purpose so that others may be served by and serve that vision themselves -- then we must admit our awareness of the dangers.
By the dangers I don't mean the consequences of what happens when people you serve project their needs and desires and expectations onto you. That's something else.
What I mean in this writing is we have to admit that to be a leader means we have to have enough ego to walk out the door each day to be a person who stands with and for others. It's a big job. We have to admit that when we do this, it is our constant work to tame that beast and sin called ego. We need some to have the confidence to do the work but when we have too much we destroy the very work we intend to do.
These days, the distinctions and levels of leadership in any system are at once on a continuum and also clearly ascribed. In spiritual/purpose-driven leadership -- whether religious, community activism, public sector of education -- there are always hierarchies.
In a general sense, a hierarchy describes the areas and levels of authority and responsibility assigned to roles. Understanding the function of hierarchies is key to visualizing how the most basic of functioning – especially communication -- happens in a mechanism of people. (Well,ants have pretty great hierarchies but that is a different sort of study.)
Sometimes leaders in a system have a tremendous amount of responsibility with very little authority. Any kind and level of leader can have deep impact on individuals, groups, and cause. Leaders with authority and corresponding power have, do and will always have constant opportunity to have deep impact on individuals,groups, and causes. The more responsibility -- with authority -- a
person has, the more at risk they will be at having to contend with the insistence of ego.
What is the composition of your deep impact?
What was the nature of your "call" to leadership?
How did you prepare to manage your ego?
We can say we're different and that ego doesn't play a part in our work. We can say things used to be that way. We can say it's unnecessary hysteria to think we are at risk of ego's runaway trains. We can dodge the issue and point out that oh, we don't claim to be perfect (while we master the critique of others).
We say or do any of these, and more. And ego will have won another round.
This is my preliminary response to the 2016 Berry Street Lecture, "If Our Secrets Define Us," by Rev. Gail Seavey. The stories she tells are not new nor surprising in and of themselves. The details detailed, in total - in one sitting (in that context), sickening. She says this. The weight of what Rev. Seavey conveyed was enormous and she did so with methodical grace.
My own relief will come when the other shoes begin to drop. Then it will only be a matter of time before we may all see what the secrets have really been damaging -- the legacy of who we are and the future we are creating. Whether Unitarian Universalist or another faith,whether the community agency or the institution of higher learning,the ego-driven misconduct of the most entrusted leaders is only the
Then there are the secrets, and from this moment on formerly known as "confidentialities." I won't attempt to re-analyze the hideous nature of cover-ups in the name of protecting something sacred. Instead, I will jump to what these sins always obscure – the impact on the leaders of the future. Our children.
When we say so earnestly, "children are our future," we're not saying, "aren't they special?" We are reminding ourselves that they are –- literally -- THE future. We don't even need to be overly emotional or sentimental about this. It's an issue of practicality.
Such evidence of practicalities, practicalities of taking care of our children with excellence is rare. In fact, those with the most responsibility for taking care of children excellently so that there can be a future are usually under appreciated, bullied, and often discarded when passion gets the best of them.
So where is the discussion among us about what matters most?
Do we ever wonder what the children see when they are watching us? Have we
ever considered that, say, church attendance is tanking because it is in our collective DNA to mistrust such institutions because of this? If they are lucky and privileged, families stay at home or take walks in the woods or stay in their jammies extra one day a week because they can count on only that extent of goodness.
I've stopped analyzing why people don't want to join communities like churches. I no longer have a secure place in them. And so my question is, now what? The Dalai Lama said last week of the Orlando Shootings,
“It is not enough simply to pray. There are solutions to many of the problems we face; new mechanisms for dialogue need to be created, along with systems of education to inculcate moral values. These must be grounded in the perspective that we all belong to one human family and that together we can take action to address global challenges.”
Dialogue is an on-purpose conversation: questions, answers, requests and information, truth telling, truth; and reconciliation.
Perhaps reconciliation should go first.
Perhaps that could start the legacy that could follow us.