Rambling Rector

May 2022

Two Leaders

 

I recently came across a list under a picture of the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, of 6 things that make a good leader. In February this year, Her Majesty The Queen became the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee marking 70 years of service as our Queen. That is longer than the entire lifespan of many of us. The two leaders are very different, with very different backgrounds. Our Queen was born into a royal family, and became the presumptive heir when Edward VIII abdicated and her father, George VI, became King. So from the age of about 10 she was destined to become Queen. Volodymyr Zelenskiy graduated in law at university and had a career as an actor and comedian before being elected president in 2019. He has been president for only three years, far less than the 70 years of our queen. Two different people with very different backgrounds. Both leaders.

 

Here are the six marks of great leadership from that article by Pete Grieg:

 

#1. Great leaders care. They are empathetic, emotionally engaged. They are not in it for themselves.

#2. Great leaders are courageous. They do not shy away from sacrifice or run away from conflict. They lead by example, from the front.

#3. Great leaders understand their brand. They are not chameleons. They do not try to please everyone. They are comfortable in their own skin, clear about the particularities, the power and the limitations of their own contribution.

#4. Great leaders build great trust, they do not stand alone. They have others looking over their shoulders and covering their backs. They instinctively build a team.

#5. Great leaders are intensely focused. They work out what matters and shut out everything else (realising that ‘what matters’ is rarely the loudest or most urgent demand upon their time.)

#6. Great leaders understand the power of symbolism. They leverage their own profile and presence to maximum effect. They capture the narrative long before they capture their ultimate prize.

 

I won’t go into the detail of the above traits and how they apply to the two leaders, because I am sure some will disagree and this piece is not intended to introduce controversy, just to help us to think about how we are led.

 

Spare a thought for the various leaders in your life that have been influential and provided an example that you have followed. This could have related to work, ethics, morals, manners, or spiritual. Over the past generation we have moved into an empowerment of the individual, almost to the extent that leaders are often frowned upon, yet they can provide important guidance on many things. We are all influenced by those around us, either positively or negatively and often without realising it. This also means that we influence those around us, which provides us with a responsibility to be good examples.

 

During the covid pandemic, Professor Chris Whitty was on the television leading us through the complexities of how to survive covid. Whilst doing this, he spent many hours on the hospital wards treating patients, gaining first-hand knowledge of the effect covid was having on people and the effects of different treatments. He was able to guide us through by experiencing the trauma of what was happening close at hand. Our Queen visited Aberfan after the mining disaster which killed 144 people, including many children, 8 days after the event. In 2002 the Queen has been reported as saying that not visiting Aberfan immediately after the disaster was “her biggest regret.” When leaders become distant, they lose touch, lose the sympathy of those they are leading.

 

There is an Arabic proverb “Sayyedu al-Qumi khademahum” meaning “The master of a people is the one who serves them.” This matches a lot of Jesus’ teachings. This proverb, derived from Islamic customs, is an exhortation for humility. To be the leader is to serve people, not order them around. This has been at the forefront of the Queen’s philosophy for many years, and is often repeated in the media as the trait that has shot the Ukrainian President to fame.

 

There is a modern hymn, written by Graham Kendrick, “This is our God, the servant King, He calls us now to follow Him”. We are all called to be servants, we cannot lead without being a servant.

 

Obviously this doesn’t work if you demand that someone helps you, or is your servant, because that is elevating yourself above leadership and not respecting the leader, and then you lose your humility.

 

So as we salute our Queen, who has been our sovereign for 70 years, during the Jubilee celebrations in June we say thank you for serving as our leader.

 

Rev Chris

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