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LIFE MATTERS: The Moral Meaning of Leadership

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Dr Dennis Acop

We just celebrated the Solemnity of Christ the King this third Sunday of November. Reading through a reflection on the day’s scripture from Gospel Power made me want to write my own reflection. There are three points I wish to make and share with you today. One is that ‘a true king is a shepherd who does not abandon his flock in the face of threats’. Second is that a true moral leader does not always yield to the logic of this world ‘that sees power as the capacity to control and to turn circumstances to one’s advantage’. And third is that a leader of character does not lead through fear but love. Allow me to explain. The first point essentially captures when we need leaders in our lives. For it is when we are threatened with annihilation that we need our leaders the most: our husbands, fathers, priests, presidents, and organizational leaders. And it is true leaders who with their courageous presence reassure those they lead that they will somehow become alright despite whatever challenges they face whether it be a natural calamity or war. The led need warrior kings, not pretentious sissies. Leaders who cannot sacrifice their lives for their people should step aside for those from among the flock who can.

The second point speaks to our hearts more than our tangible selves and the logic of the material world around us. Jesus was challenged to come down from the cross and wipe out his oppressors and become their earthly king. Instead, Jesus yielded down his power and allowed himself to be at the disadvantage. The led at the time never understood such action by their leader. They probably even thought Jesus was cowardly and not really the messiah he claimed to be. But in fact he was. And in fact, Jesus was acting precisely as their true leader who was looking after their best interest. He conquered death more than just the Roman Empire. A victory that benefits all of humanity until today. Certainly not the logic of the world which prioritizes temporary material benefit. Not just a king of men but of the entire universe, the Man-God showed us how to be true leaders: Save your men’s souls first, not just their bodies. The problem with the world today is that our leaders prioritize themselves first before their followers according to the material code of the world but far from the moral code instituted by Christ.

Finally, true leaders of character lead through love, not fear. Oftentimes today, we lay witness to so-called leaders who instill fear in their followers and constituents by killing people. Leaders set the culture and if a leader rules by fear, then that is what the people get: frightened for their lives. Then that culture of fear which terrorizes the people allows that leader to do anything without accountability. Fear is the value of the evil one. And pain and suffering are its dividends. Love is the opposite of fear and it is the value of good leadership. Love and all that is good come from God. Leaders of character are servant leaders who exhibit moral leadership. Instead of having people killed or stealing their money, they themselves endure the people’s hardships so that they can effectively serve the people. Leaders of character truly abide by the rule of law using that law to serve the best interest of the people especially the most disadvantaged and marginalized. True leaders lead by example. They are not greedy. They are not hypocrites because they know that hypocrisy does not serve the poor and powerless or the general interest. Most of all, leaders of character do their best to also serve the souls of men and not just their bodies. They belong to God, the leader of the universe.

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