Posts Tagged 'leader'

8 Beatitudes of Good Politics: Pope Francis’s World Day of Peace Message

Photo Credit: Aleteia Image Department via flickr

Once again, Pope Francis has issued a challenge to world leaders to live up to their calling, and a scathing rebuke to those who abuse their power, all in the simplest and most familiar of ways.  Pope Francis’s message for the World Day of Peace on January 1, 2019, “Good Politics Is at the Service of Peace,” highlights 8 “beatitudes” of good politics, proposed by Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyễn Vãn Thuận.

First, Pope Francis points out that peace “is like a delicate flower struggling to blossom on the stony ground of violence.”  He then links peacebuilding to good politics.  Good politics, for Francis, involves heeding Jesus’s exhortation that anyone who would be first must be the servant of all. Thus, good political leadership involves service and can be a form of charity:

Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions. . . Political office and political responsibility thus constantly challenge those called to the service of their country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just future. If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity.

With this understanding of political leadership as service, he turns to the “Beatitudes of the Politician:”

It may be helpful to recall the “Beatitudes of the Politician,” proposed by Vietnamese Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyễn Vãn Thuận, a faithful witness to the Gospel who died in 2002:

Blessed be the politician with a lofty sense and deep understanding of his role.

Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility.

Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his or her own interest.

Blessed be the politician who remains consistent.

Blessed be the politician who works for unity.

Blessed be the politician who works to accomplish radical change.

Blessed be the politician who is capable of listening.

Blessed be the politician who is without fear.

At the same time that Pope Francis outlines his understanding of good politics in the service of peacebuilding, he doesn’t shrink from naming the forces that work against peace, calling out the behaviors of world leaders who aren’t living up to their calling. Although he doesn’t name names, he names attitudes and behaviors that identify particular leaders:

Sadly, together with its virtues, politics also has its share of vices. . . We think of corruption in its varied forms: the misappropriation of public resources, the exploitation of individuals, the denial of rights, the flouting of community rules, dishonest gain, the justification of power by force or the arbitrary appeal to raison d’état and the refusal to relinquish power. To which we can add xenophobia, racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick profit and contempt for those forced into exile.

Pope Francis concludes by challenging leaders to protect and include young people in peacebuilding and leadership, and by offering a vision of peace for the world that all can help build:

Peace, in effect, is the fruit of a great political project grounded in the mutual responsibility and interdependence of human beings. But it is also a challenge that demands to be taken up ever anew. It entails a conversion of heart and soul; it is both interior and communal; and it has three inseparable aspects:

– peace with oneself, rejecting inflexibility, anger and impatience; in the words of Saint Francis de Sales, showing “a bit of sweetness towards oneself” in order to offer “a bit of sweetness to others”;

– peace with others: family members, friends, strangers, the poor and the suffering, being unafraid to encounter them and listen to what they have to say;

– peace with all creation, rediscovering the grandeur of God’s gift and our individual and shared responsibility as inhabitants of this world, citizens and builders of the future.

As we approach the new year of 2019, let us heed Pope Francis’s words and rise to the challenge of being good leaders and people of peace.



Presidents and Truth

Photo credit: Gonzalo Díaz Fornaro via flickr

Last week I visited Mount Vernon, home of George Washington, and found myself inspired by many of the things I learned about him, including his honesty.

The first story I ever heard about George Washington ended with “I cannot tell a lie.”  He had chopped down a cherry tree, the story goes, and when his father confronted him, he told the truth.  This story, whether true in detail or not, reflects an important value: Presidents who tell the truth, Presidents who are honest, are to be honored.

I find myself musing these days on Presidents and truth.  In this “post-truth” era, with a current President who offers “alternative facts,” I’m reflecting on how we got to where we are now.

Our Presidents reflect who we are.  The “post-truth” era started long before the campaign and election of the current U.S. President.  Ken Wilber’s excellent analysis in Trump and a Post-Truth World” traces the development of post-modernism, pointing out its important strengths, as well as pointing to how its shadow, narcissism and nihilism, has led us to where we are today.

If our Presidents reflect who we are, how can we more fully become who we want to be? Where do we go from here?  I believe that the philosopher/theologian Bernard Lonergan can provide us help.  Lonergan calls humans to “authenticity,” which he defines as openness, questioning, honesty, and good will.  He unpacks those elements of authenticity by focusing on the operations of consciousness within us that result in our knowing what we know, and the inherent norms accompanying those operations. Lonergan demonstrates how the fruit of authenticity is objectivity.  He agrees with post-modernists that there are no “already-out-there-now” facts that we can simply take a look at and know. Rather, all information that comes to us is interpreted through the lens of our identity and experience, in other words, through who we are.  However, Lonergan believes that this reality doesn’t imply relativism and nihilism.  As we move closer to becoming authentic subjects, objectivity results.  Objectivity is the fruit of authentic subjectivity.

If we want our leaders to be authentic human beings who honor truth-telling, we can begin by becoming more authentic ourselves.  Furthermore, we can create communities of authenticity that call our institutions and our leaders to higher standards.

The hard work of moving out of narcissism and nihilism begins with us.  And when we have blazed a trail and created a path, others will follow.  People yearn for authenticity.  Let us take the lead and challenge our leaders to follow.

(An earlier version of this article appeared in the February 2017 Executive Soul blog.)


What Do You Mean . . . “Leader?”

Photo Credit: Steve Johnson via flickr

Photo Credit: Steve Johnson via flickr

Susie Allen, who co-leads the Boston Soul of Leadership program with Margaret Benefiel, is guest blog author this month.

A few days ago, a friend was speaking with me about a deep passion she has for a topic she wants to bring into focus for discussion and reflection at her church. As she was talking, I found myself moved by the power of her own experience around the topic, and drawn into her ideas about how to create programming to bring this topic to light.

I asked her about her plans to generate such a program, given her deep passion and clear ideas. She responded to my question by saying, “Oh, I can’t do this. I’m not a leader.” I detected some sadness as she said this, acknowledging that despite her passion and desire, she does not feel equipped to bring such a program into being.

So I asked her, “What do you mean by ‘leader’?” She began, and I joined her, to outline a concept of leader. In front of people, directive, vocal, powerful, confident, knowledgeable, command and control. We sat for a moment to be present to this picture of leader.

We began to talk about her ideas: create a display of printed resources on the topic; identify books to study in small groups; lead a book discussion; organize a calendar to schedule small group book discussions; create publicity for the church and community; distribute person-to-person invitations; and gather testimonials. Then we wondered together – which, of all of these ideas, might she set into action? Which energized her? Which tapped into the gifts and skills she knows she has?

All of a sudden, “leader” took on a different character and quality. In the context of enacting her vision, “leader” might be described in these ways: creator, writer, connector, organizer, gatherer, small group facilitator, storyteller. She began to see herself as someone who has leadership qualities that could be engaged to bring her vision to life.

Organizations and workplaces are as varied as the people who are a part of them. The leadership styles and characteristics needed in the cockpit of an airplane are vastly different from the qualities needed to lead a street ministry, or direct an orchestra, or run a household.

What is your sphere of influence? What are the particular gifts and skills you know you have? Where do you come alive in your work? What is the best workplace environment for your personality?

Another friend recently asked me when Executive Soul might be offering programs for “followers.” We smiled together, and then I wondered with her – is she leading in ways she hasn’t yet become aware of? I’ll bet she is. And if so, how does she want to energize and engage the leader within?