Posted by Merv McCormack
on 18 October 2019
Lasallian Mission Council's (LMC) Lasallian Mission Services' Young Lasallian team, accompanied by a couple of other LMC colleagues, recently attended a two-day off-site meeting. The aim was to critically review our work, particularly with reference to the District Strategic Plan, as well as look at Team culture and practices. Included as part of the discernment was our leadership, with self- identified strengths and challenges. We analysed our work, we surveyed ourselves on nine indicators, including leadership; work environment; accountability; capabilities; external orientation; and innovation & learning. The results will provide us with good data as we refine our practices.
Afterwards, I got to thinking generally about leadership: the Catholic Church's; the nation's and the world's. It is a pretty dispiriting scenario. Surely, it is reasonable to expect better- some forthright vision and exciting, inclusive planning and policies for a start, and that includes in all three domains. With some exception, and I include Pope Francis as a leader who tries hard in his complex counter- cultural leadership role, the fact is that our current leaders and leaders-in-waiting do not attempt to persuade in a decent fashion but rather, they resort to vitriol and personal invective. It surely wasn't always this way. Surely, we can and must do better than the crassness and insensitivity, and the moral vacuum in which so many policies are rolled out.
We cannot do much about Trump, Duterte, Putin, Kim Jong-un, Erdogan, and so on what a sad list that is. Sadly, we are not immune for we also have a fair share of fringe-dwelling politicians and would- be leaders who must be carefully watched, contained and despatched courtesy of the ballot box when they consistently fail to humanely address issues which genuinely matter to most decent people.
Worldwide, there is a daily crisis of quality leadership. Has it always been this way? Has the pervasive scrutiny of the 24/7 news cycle only highlighted the feet of clay that marks so many human endeavours? Would respected leaders of the past be just as critically assessed in light of today's standards?
Some time ago, I reread David McCullough's magnificent biography of Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States. Ten years in the research and writing, this is a story of a leader for the ages. Leaders, and those who aspire to lead, would do well to read it. This is Harry S. Truman of "The Buck Stops Here" fame, with that well- known plaque adorning his Oval Office desk. Courage and confidence, genuine sympathy for others, humour, common sense, personal and professional pride, determination, and a fundamental, unshakable faith in democracy were his daily hallmarks. Wm J Hopkins, Executive Clerk in the White House for 40 years wrote: "Truman liked people, he trusted people, and in turn he engendered unqualified loyalty and devotion among his staff", while his Naval Aide, Lieutenant Rigdon noted that "From first to last, he remained entirely himself. There was no pretence whatever about him". McCullough noted that Truman welcomed others' ideas. "He was not afraid of the competition of other ideas Free of the greatest vice in a leader, his ego never came between him and his job" (my italics).
The re-reading of this wonderful work provided a few reminders- quality leadership is founded on integrity, honour and honesty, lofty ideals and nobility of intent. Or as Truman himself noted, quoting Mark Twain, "Always do right. It will please some people and astonish the rest".
Whether it's Scomo or Albo, or Trump or Uncle Joe, man or woman, mother, father, principal or priest, the same lessons apply. And so too, to Lasalllians who dare to hope in the face of despair. To be Lasalllian is to be someone of heart, someone of hope!