Steve on Leadership # 2

At the inaugural Annual Forum for New Leaders in 1993, auspiced by Johnson & Johnson Pacific, Catholic priest and author Father Christopher Gleeson, S.J., and then headmaster of St Ignatius College Riverview said:

“If we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything. If we want to change things then we must first of all change ourselves. The true leader begins from the inside out – with the capacity for vision, for self reflection, for discernment of what is reactive and proactive in me, between the negative and the positive, between false and true self.”

Many years hence, Pope Benedict XVI said something similar:

“We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as definitive and has as its highest value one's own ego and one's own desires...”

What we lack, it seems, is a moral compass amongst our “leaders” within politics and business. Despite the “If it feels OK, and it doesn’t hurt me, then go for it” attitude that seems to permeate Australian and American society, there are some moral absolute that we in positions of influence and leadership need to consider.

Some things are right, just, and true, whether we want to acknowledge them or not, and regardless of whether or not we like them. Fairness to me is sacred, along with the dignity of human life in all its stages, as well as the dignity of human work, and the fact that all men and women are created equal and have an inherent right to the dignity that is innate in the human person.

It is also imperative to remember that leadership and management are different charisms. Not mutually exclusive, but distinct. The manager of a company might be the managing director or the CEO. The real leader might be the person who works in the mailroom or the tea lady. In this era of “down sizing” and “right sizing”, the person who sorts the mail or pours the tea might well have been “let go”. In return, just how many real leaders have we let go?

This is to the detriment of corporate governance. Instead of nurturing and encouraging these people, we have allowed them to join the unemployment queue. Corporate Australia is the poorer for this myopia.

What we need desperately are leaders with a set of corrective moral lenses, intestinal fortitude, and strong vertebrae.

Steve Lourey
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