“These are dangerous times that require all of us to be prepared to do dangerous things. Often contrary to our natural instincts.”
As the cold war was coming to a close I had the opportunity to attend a conference on political developments in the the Middle East. We were still operating under the paradigm of a bi-polar nation state alignment between the US and the USSR, and all regional conflicts were interpreted through that construct. The quote above came from a higher level speaker at one of the conferences sessions. I can’t remember exactly who he was, but I liked his “turn of phrase.”
Things have definitely changed on the political landscape over the last thirty years, but the premise remains the same….these are dangerous times.
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Most of us that carry a weapon for self defense have trained under the premise that our most likely encounter with a villain will take place at home with our families, or late at night outside our home when we are alone. After all, a villain will search for an easy victim, and a group of people presents a harder target then one lone sheep separated from the herd.
That is true… unless destruction of the herd is the goal of the assailant.
During these extreme acts of aggression the best chance for survival of the group, and the defeat of the wolf is for the group to act in concert.
The evil mission of the jihadists on flight 93 was thwarted not by the action of a single individual, but by the brave actions of the passengers and crew. It was a singular event of exquisite leadership.
Most of us do not have the presence of mind to see the face of evil and charge head long into its fanged mouth.
Some of us do.
Those that do, are special… those that can motivate others to find their own courage and follow the leader into the toxic realm of combat are a completely different breed. They are true leaders…. and giants among us.
After World War II, with the advent of the GI bill a nations warriors came home and went to college. Many of them went to business school. It was presupposed that those that had achieved a higher level of education would by definition move into the higher echelons of the businesses they would ultimately get hired by. It also began an unprecedented expectation level of education for future generations.
College attendance became a a fundamental goal for the children of this greatest generation. As the ranks of college attendees swelled, so did the curriculum of the schools they were attending. As many colleges attest: They produce “leaders”….. but what exactly are the “leaders” they are producing?
Managers have developed static checklists for their employees. The expectation that individuals that sell their labor to an employer are resources or widgets that require maintenance or upgrading, no different from copier machines or coffee makers. Since the individual is viewed as a static commodity, the manager does not lead his employees… he does exactly what his job title suggests: He manages them.
A true leader is unique.
A leader first and foremost recognizes an objective. Once that objective has been identified he moves with all deliberate speed towards that goal. Those that are around him become empowered and will be willing to sacrifice, because they know that the leader himself is also prepared to sacrifice.
A leader is selfless.
They act, and their actions are decisive. They are more than willing to lead others into harms way, but they will not allow harm to find others.
We may always be looking to avoid war, but sometimes it is war that seeks us out. When that happens we need to know that there is a leader among us that can rally us to a common goal. A leader that can and will inspire us to acts of bravery that few of us believe we are capable of.
The irony is that a leader may very well have the most self doubt of all. They are willing to push that self doubt down into the depths and provide a stalwart edifice of confidence… not for the benefit of their own ego…. but to calm the fears of those around them.
Are leaders born or made?
I’m not entirely sure that the question has relevance in todays world. A leader can surely be constrained to such an extent that they become little more than a bureaucrat….we’ve certainly seen this many times over.
A leader is one who rises to the occasion, and has the power and charisma to do the same for others.
We must pray as we go deeper into these dangerous times that true leaders emerge.