Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

A Measure of Good Leadership

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Leaders come in many shapes, forms and sizes, and there are outstanding, mediocre and poor examples of leadership everywhere. In fact, civilization could not have come this far without good leaders. We have heard of their feats of prowess on the battlefield, in business, politics, education, religion, sports, science, the arts, industry and other areas of human endeavor. There are many criteria for good leaders, but none is perhaps more important than the measure of added value that they bring to the lives of those they lead.

By added value, I mean communicating the spiritual, inspiring the relational and emphasizing the material aspects of life that give hope, build self-confidence, affirm justice, and inspire self-reliance – all  to support the individual’s hard work that leads to them building a better life. The individual hard work they engage leads to improvement of the whole family, community, organization or nation. The value and work benefits not only them alone but a larger aggregate of persons.

One true measure of a good leader is the quantitative and qualitative value they bring to the organization they lead. Good leaders make things happen. Poor leaders watch and wait for things happen. Good leaders look for people to praise and reward. Poor leaders look for people to blame and defame. Good leaders lead by example. Poor leaders lead by default. Good leaders add value to people’s lives and enhance the overall quality of their existence as they build up people’s confidence and inspire a higher quality of work from those they lead. Poor leaders work to destroy that confidence through their “FMC” strategies as they “fix,” “manage,” and “control” life outside of the boundaries of the organization’s designated timeframe or purpose.

The central question is, does the leader add or subtract value to the lives of the people he leads? When the leader has finished the work, is the organization in better or worse shape than before the leader arrived? Poor leaders devalue and diminish the organizations they lead. Good leaders enhance the value by improving the relational, organizational and even the fiscal bottom line of those organizations.

I’ve known people who were chosen to lead perfectly good organizations, but who subtracted and diminished their value. They killed the spirit of committed employees and workers, leaving the organizations for dead, and then went on to the next organization to repeat the same cycle of pathology. Such persons specialize in taking organizations that are working well, and rather than making them work better, they slowly dismantle and destroy them. These leaders failed to adopt the new ideas that would help their organizations to adapt – equipping them to thrive in new times and under very different circumstances. They failed to listen to their employees. Good leaders also are good followers.

These inept leaders were just not qualified to lead in the first place. They arrived at their leadership positions because of their powerful connections, or special favors from their sponsors, or because they talk a “good game.” But when the day is done, they will have pulverized and decimated the organization, leaving it in spiritual, relational and moral shambles. They were concerned only about themselves and not the people. They were not equipped or qualified to ask the right questions and to lead the organization in the right direction.

In looking at political leadership in Washington and other parts of the country, I see myriad examples of poor and inept leadership. Some are not qualified to be there. Others are not concerned about adding real value to the lives of the people they serve, but seem more preoccupied with tooting their own horns, augmenting their own value and developing their own bottom line at the expense of everybody else. What values are political leaders adding to our country? How are they inspiring hope among the people and creating a culture in which every citizen can strive and achieve excellence and wholeness, wellness and equality in their lives?

Leaders who would shut down their own government to make a statement or to punish the American people are not adding value to the bottom line of government or this country. They are detracting value by needlessly causing misery and pain for countless Americans because of ideology or personal selfishness. They practice politics as punishment by castigating the undeserving needy, humiliating any persons who don’t share their views, tow their line or reflect their so called values. They are creating a model of ineptitude and glorifying it as the quintessential leadership prototype. What leader would intentionally misrepresent the facts to gain advantage over his opponents? What leader would knowingly do harm to his constituents? What leader would use his positions to take food from the hungry, demolish the middle and under classes in America and destroy everything of value that has helped build America up and enable the emergence of a strong middle sector in the American body politic?What persons find value in the number of people they can hurt? What leaders would intentionally inflict pain on their own people and then call it pleasurable or progress? Insenstive and non caring leaders!

When it all boils down, there are three types of leaders: those who add value, those who maintain value and those who destroy and diminish value of the people they are called to serve.

Good leaders clearly understand that in ultimately adding permanent value to any organization, they may have to momentarily maintain or even subtract value, in order to add value as the final outcome of their service. The long term goal is making their organizations, communities and country better!

So always ask yourself, what value is the leader adding to your organization?  Does the leader have a clear sense of purpose for the people he or she is called to serve? Does this leader have a vision, a mission, a level of efficiency to achieve those goals that will enable him and other members to get the job done?

What is the measure of value added by those who are leading you? Are they adding value to your life? Take a look at your leaders and see what they are doing to augment your quality of life – to make your families, communities, nation and world better for all.



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