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Religious belief, on the deepest level, is inevitably also a principle of freedom.  To defend one’s faith is to defend the freedom of everyone. –Thomas Merton

I am a Catholic AND I believe there is truth in all faith, philosophic and humanist traditions.  As a Catholic I believe that my Church guarantees me the highest spiritual freedom.  I do not believe I would remain a Catholic if I did not believe this.  I would not remain a Catholic if I believed that the Church were merely an organization with rules and laws and prohibitions that demanded external obedience.  I view the organization as subordinate to the Holy Spirit and to the law of love.  I also know that my Church does not look like this to others.  Many believe that the Church is rooted in and acts on the principle of ‘Authority’ rather than on the principle of ‘Freedom.’  It is in Christ and in Christ’s Spirit that freedom is rooted and at her best the Church lives into and out of Christ and Christ’s Spirit.

I also believe that embracing the spiritual, interior and personal freedom is embraced not only by Christianity, these are also embraced by all religions.  These are common to all faith traditions (and almost all philosophic and humanist traditions).  I strive not to judge but to seek the truth in all traditions.  As an imperfect human being how do I know what grace God can and does give to each Christian who obeys the light of his/her conscience and follows Christ according to the faith and love he/she has received.  Let us try and understand one another and at the same time let us strive to seek the light and to live rooted in love. 

For the Jew, too, the promise of Abraham is a promise of freedom – independence under God’s guidance.  God chose His people for Himself.  God invited them to live in fidelity to a sacred covenant – a free agreement.  A bond between God and His People – a bond of liberty and love.  What did the prophets protest against more than infidelity to Yahweh?

For the Muslim, too, there is a freedom which lifts the believer above the limitations imposed by race or by society.  The believer is incorporated into a higher community, a community delivered from idol-worship and set free to embrace a white-hot faith as grand as the desert itself.  A community embracing faith in One God, the compassionate and the merciful.  Compassion and Mercy are two gifts of Freedom. 

Then there are the great Oriental traditions/religions.  They seek liberation and freedom of spirit.  They provide us with a principle of liberty by which we can rise above our need to dominate and judge. 

These traditions give us the freedom to live our own spiritual life.  They give us the freedom to seek the higher truth.  They give us the freedom to own and say one’s own ‘yes’ and one’s own ‘no.’ Embracing and ‘owning’ one’s voice is one of the great freedoms that each of these traditions gifts us with.  AND with this gift comes an unconditional response-ability and responsibility: To truly let your ‘yes’ mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ mean ‘no.’ 

We must have the courage to speak our ‘yes’ and our ‘no.’ –Thomas Merton  

Today Gentle Reader we will conclude our brief exploration of ‘The Charge & The Challenge of the Leader.’  I invite you to consider the following (please see PART I for the context).

Learning. . . In order to keep up, the leader’s learning must be equal to or greater than the rate of change (the rate of change is increasing as is the complexity of change – technology is just one of the areas where this continues to occur).  The individual leader will need to continue to learn and this ‘individual’ learning will not be enough.  The leader must learn to learn cooperatively and collaboratively.  The leader must also champion ‘systems learning.’  Cooperative, collaborative and systems learning are daunting challenges for most leaders – why?  Because most leaders have been rewarded for their individual abilities, talents, skills and learning. 

Balance. . .  The leader is charged with and challenged to maintain a balance between ‘being effective’ with ‘being faithful.’  Leaders and the led too often focus on ‘being effective’ and neglect or dismiss the importance of ‘being faithful.’  Leaders, and those led, are charged with and are challenged to embrace both with equal vigor.  What does this mean?  Well, perhaps an example will help (it is one I have used in previous postings). 

In the early 1980s there occurred in the Chicago area the ‘Tylenol Poisonings.’  The President of Johnson & Johnson (the makers of Tylenol), James Burke, brought together folks from law enforcement (including the FBI), attorneys, and senior level Johnson & Johnson executives.  It appeared as if the poisonings were confined to the Chicago area and so the advice of many present in the room was to pull the product from the shelves in those areas.  This was the ‘effective’ thing to do they said.  Another reason this advice was given was that at the same time a new product, Datril, was being introduced in direct competition to Tylenol. 

Burke took two actions.  First he said that there would be ‘complete transparency’ as to what was unfolding (an action that was not supported by many in the room).  The second was to take some time (it turned out to be 10 hours) and think deeply about their options and the rationale for each of them.  Since he would be held responsible he said he would make the final decision.  As the conversation continued Burke kept referring back to Johnson & Johnsons ‘Credo’ – a written document which delineated their commitment to their stakeholders, including their end-users.  The ‘Credo,’ in effect noted that they would not put their end-users in harm’s way. 

Two ‘camps’ emerged.  The majority felt that it was best to remove Tylenol from the shelves in the Chicago area.  The minority (and it was a small one indeed) led by Burke believed that if their Credo was to be meaningful then ALL of the Tylenol EVERYWHERE must be removed from the shelves.  Burke was adamant.  As the leader with ultimate response-ability he chose to have all Tylenol removed from every shelf everywhere.  The story does not end here, but this will suffice for our example today. 

James Burke chose ‘being faithful’ to the Credo rather than simply go for ‘being effective’ (in fact, he put ‘being effective’ at risk by choosing to ‘be faithful’).  Each leader and the led must decide when ‘being faithful’ trumps ‘being effective.’  This is truly a daunting charge and challenge; perhaps it is the most daunting of the many challenges a leader will encounter.

I am not called to be effective; I am called to be faithful. –Mother Teresa

As a preface to this topic I offer us two quotes attributed to the great Chinese sage, Lao Tzu:

‘To lead people, walk behind them.’  AND: ‘A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.’

What will help a leader live into Lao Tzu’s first statement and experience those led repeating Lao Tzu’s second statement?  Gentle Reader, consider the following.

Connect. . .  Co-create trusting relationships with those who choose to follow.  ‘Leadership’ is a by-product of the relationship between the leader and the led.  The leader and the led provide support to one another; they hold one another accountable; they help one another develop their skills, abilities, strengths and talents; they help one another become unconditionally response-able and responsible; they help one another nurture more than deplete their P.I.E.S. [P.I.E.S. = each person’s Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spirit(ual) Dimensions]; and, they help one another develop more fully specific capacities [e.g. capacity for reflection, for listening, for inquiry, etc.].

Care. . .  The leader and the led demonstrate caring for one another.  They offer one another empathy, compassion, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.  They invite and honor one another’s voice.  Caring occurs when it has been acknowledged; that is, the one cared for acknowledges that caring has actually occurred.  Caring is also reciprocal; that is, each demonstrates caring for the other.  People who experience being cared for function at a higher level and with more distinction than those who do not feel cared for.  People who experience being cared for are more willing to give their discretionary energy to their work (this is the energy that money cannot ‘buy’). 

Commitment. . .  Among other things, the leader must be committed to ‘quality,’ ‘high achievement,’ and ‘distinction’ (versus ‘mediocrity’).  Many years ago W. Edwards Deming provided us three ingredients that must support and complement one another in order for ‘quality,’ ‘high achievement,’ and ‘distinction’ to be realized.  His quality concept was, mostly, a failure in our country.  Why?  Although the reasons were many there was one that was consistent: organizations refused to embrace Deming’s ‘third C.’ We fell in love with the first two: ‘Customer’ and ‘Counting’ (Statistical Measurement) – although much of our ‘customer care’ was anything but.  We ignored, or denied the importance of, his ‘third C’ – ‘Culture.’  Culture Matters…period.  Culture (and her younger sisters, ‘Climate’ and ‘Environment’) is the key ingredient; it is more important than Customer or Counting.  An organization’s ‘Culture’ powerfully affects its members, their relationships with all of those they serve, and their ‘work.’  Just as powerful, and at times even more powerful, are the many sub-cultures that exist within organizations.  These sub-cultures are composed of the different ‘divisions,’ or ‘departments,’ or ‘teams’ or ‘disciplines’ (for example).  They are cultures within the Culture.  Too often the sub-cultures are in conflict with other sub-cultures or with the Culture itself.  These conflicts are frequently rooted in values, needs, wishes, wants, desires, goals, or ‘politics.’ 

Commitment is also different from ‘Loyalty.’ Historically the led are ‘Loyal’ to the leader and as we well know this can lead to great harm being done. Commitment means that the leader and the led intentionally and purposefully emerge clear agreements that all embrace. Then, because of their commitment and their agreements, they are more willing to hold one another accountable when an agreement is not kept.

Remember, I say to myself, ‘Commitment’ is not a word, it is an act. As the author Arthur Gordon noted: ‘Nothing is easier than saying words. Nothing is harder than living them day after day.’

Good morning Gentle Reader.  As I was paging through a few of my journals waiting for my writing muse to appear I began to have a feeling that my muse might be taking the holiday off.  I set my journals aside.  I picked up a book and began to read.  As I read I became aware of this ‘niggle’ – ‘Why not just offer your Gentle Readers ‘A Few Random Thoughts & Considerations’?  So, Gentle Reader, that is what I am about to do.  I chose three journals, chose one and opened it.  I made a note of an entry and then randomly chose another page; I made another note.  I spent about thirty minutes doing this.  What follows are ‘A Few Random Thoughts & Considerations.’

#1: The great Protestant theologian, Karl Barth, was always a bit put off by the fact that Mozart was a Catholic.  Mozart also openly rejected Protestantism.  Barth related a dream he had.  In his dream he was chosen to examine Mozart’s ‘faith.’  Throughout the ‘examination’ Mozart remained silent.  Mozart just sat, his face covered with his child-like smile.  Now there is a paradox here (or is it irony).  Each morning Karl Barth would play a recording of Mozart’s music.  Then Barth would take up pen and put pen to paper.  Perhaps Karl Barth was unconsciously seeking to awaken the hidden sophianic Mozart in himself – the core wisdom that comes when one is in tune with the divine music; the divine music that is love.  Karl Barth also noted that ‘it is a child, a divine child, who speaks in Mozart’s music to us.’ 

#2: A QUESTION: Is your love for ‘Men’ or is your love for a ‘Cause’? 

#3: THINK ABOUT THIS: One has either to be a Jew or stop reading the Bible.  Consider that the Bible cannot make sense to anyone who is not ‘spiritually a Semite.’  For us Christians the New Testament is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, the promise that Abraham believed in.  The New Testament, then, is not a denial of Judaism, it is an affirmation. 

#4: A QUESTION: Do we instinctively pay attention not to what a politician actually says but to what he/she seems to want to say – or to what we want to hear?

#5: Logical Positivism is an excellent way to organize futility.  This is my understanding of LP’s teaching: Since we cannot really say anything about anything, let us be content to talk about the way in which we say nothing.   Although ‘nothingness’ has its dignity for the LP not even the dignity of ‘nothingness’ is respected.

#6: The atheist existentialist has my respect:  he accepts his honest despair with stoic dignity.  His despair provides his thought a genuine content, because it expresses an experience – his confrontation with and his embracing of emptiness.  Others don’t have the imagination or the good sense to stand in awe of real emptiness. 

#7: CONSIDER: We believe not because we want to know, but because we want to be.

#8: SOLITUDE: Solitude has its own special work: a deepening of awareness that the world needs.  Solitude is deeply aware of the world’s needs and Solitude seeks to embrace them.

#9: Anti-Semitism is a direct attack on Christ. 

#10: If we want to bring together what is divided, we can not do so by imposing one division upon the other or absorbing one division into the other.  We must embrace the paradox of ‘BOTH-AND.’   

In 1964 I enrolled in a philosophy seminar (I was a sophomore and learned that sophomore means ‘wise fool’ – and that I was).  I relished seminars.  The number of students was small (in this case there were 12 students and the professor); we sat in a circle and conversed and via these searching conversations we learned – we learned to bring our voice, we learned to listen with undefended receptivity, we learned to search together in order to more fully understand.  I ‘fell in love’ with three Stoics: Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and Seneca.  This morning, Gentle Reader, I will share some ‘Counsel’ from these three Stoics. 

The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control.  Where then do I look for good and evil?  Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own… (Epictetus, ‘Discourses’ 2.5-4.5)

All you need are these: certainty of judgment in the present moment; action for the common good in the present moment; and an attitude of gratitude in the present moment for anything that comes your way. (Marcus Aurelius, ‘Meditations’ 9.6)

Let all your efforts be directed to something, let it keep that end in view.  It’s not activity that disturbs people, but false conceptions of things that drive them mad. (Seneca, ‘On Tranquility of Mind’ 12.5)

The proper work of the mind is the exercise of choice, refusal, yearning, repulsion, preparation, purpose, and assent.  What then can pollute and clog the mind’s proper functioning?  Nothing but its own corrupt decisions.  (Epictetus, ‘Discourses’ 4.11-6.7)

From Rusticus…I learned to read carefully and not be satisfied with a rough understanding of the whole, and not to agree too quickly with those who have a lot to say about something.  (Marcus Aurelius, ‘Meditations’ 1.7.3)

I will keep constant watch over myself and – most usefully – will put each day up for review.  For this is what makes us evil – that none of us looks back upon our own lives.  We reflect upon only that which we are about to do.  And yet our plans for the future descend from the past. (Seneca, ‘Moral Letters’ 83.2)

Gentle Reader, it helps me to remember that each of these men were writing to themselves; their ‘Counsel’ was directed at himself.  If you have not spent time with one or more of these Stoics I invite you to begin with Marcus Aurelius and his ‘Meditations’ and then move on to Epictetus and his ‘Discourses’ and then to Seneca (whose writings are legion).  Each of these men strove to follow the ‘Counsel’ of the ‘Oracle’ – Know Thyself!