Category: Leadership

Looking for a leader

People, especially those who would lead, are interesting. Check out these two descriptions:

1) man of medium stature… hair lay smooth as if it had been combed… beard shaggy and trained to a point… eyes were bright and full of fire, bespeaking the keenness of his mind… eyebrows fine… nose perfectly straight… mouth a bit large, with full lower lip… neck thick and bent… shoulders large and broad… from head to fingertips well proportioned, and therefore strong and a good runner.

2) not handsome nor youthful… long beard with lice, like a thicket for wild beasts… head disheveled… seldom cuts hair or nails… fingers nearly always black with ink.

Two interesting, very different descriptions. Same man. The most powerful man in the world at the time. In the first he is described by Ammianus, in the second by himself. In other words, he saw his flaws.

The man — Roman Emperor Julian, called the Apostate by some.

“This pagan lived and dressed like a monk. Apparently he knew no woman carnally after the death of his wife. He slept on a hard pallet in an unheated room; he kept all his chambers unheated throughout the winter “to accustom myself to bear the cold.” He had no taste for amusements. He shunned the theater with its libidinous pantomimes, and offended the populace by staying away from the Hippodrome; on solemn festivals he attended for a while, but finding one race like another, he soon withdrew. At first the people were impressed by his virtues, his asceticism, his devotion to the chores and crises of government; they compared him to Trajan as a general, to Antoninus Pius as a saint, to Marcus Aurelius as a philosopher-king. We are surprised to see how readily this young pagan was accepted by a city and an Empire that for a generation had known none but Christian emperors.”

There can be such a thing as a powerful, exemplary, service-oriented leader. He or she will not rise to power in the USA as Julian did in Rome. Here, the people need to be looking for such a person and then lift them above the crowd of egotistical and power hungry.

It is good to lift up people of competence, integrity, experience, intelligence, compassion, and humility. Maybe such characteristics can be summed in one word — wisdom.

We need wise women and men to lead. Any leader will make mistakes, and no leader can right every wrong. But a wise leader gives us our best hope.

On Memorial Day it is good to remember the responsibility we all have to choose our leaders well.

Quote and info from Will Durant, The Age of Faith: The Story of Civilization, Volume IV . Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

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“I know nothing,” to quote Sgt. Schultz

When is not knowing better than knowing? Richard L. hester and Kelli Walker-Jones say it’s so when it comes to leadership. At least that’s what I picked up last night in the introduction to their book, Know Your Story and Lead with It.

The not-knowing approach to leadership is counter-intuitive to many people, but my experience is that there is real truth in it, especially when beginning in a new leadership position.

If I may translate the authors, they’re talking about the difference between a leader who thinks he or she knows what needs to be done as opposed to trusting the group to inform the leadership approach. It produces, the authors say, an “organic strategy” for leading a group.

This fits with my natural inclinations as a team-builder, but I find myself wondering if the people I have sought to lead would see me in such a way or not. Generally, no one likes a no-it-all or will follow such a person, but that’s how we often behave as leaders.