To lead is not to dominate

A GOOD leader is one who guides and motivates people to follow him. He does not dominate them, dragging them to go along his way. He inspires them and leaves them free, not forced to do anything.

If they do something for the common good, it’s because they want to. A good leader keeps and enhances their dignity as persons and does not reduce them to the status of slaves or pawns.

We need to make this point clear nowadays because there seems to be a drift toward a concept of leadership that promotes the elements of fear, coercion, shaming and even violence and the like. People are treated like mere minions or servants. Things are imposed rather than suggested on them.

Of course, there are some people who say that as long as a leader produces some tangible accomplishments, especially in the area of economics and infrastructure, then it is just ok to have this baggage of negative elements. It is sort of having a case of sweet lemoning.

Indeed, it’s true that some degree of fear and forcefulness is needed in a good leader. But it is a fear and forcefulness that is inspired by love and freedom. Yes, love and freedom have their own brand of healthy fear and forcefulness. They are part of the virtue of fortitude. They are not the servile type of fear and forcefulness, rather of the filial type.

A good leader exudes the kind of fear and forcefulness that gives due consideration to the realistic condition of man who has very high objective aspirations but burdened with concrete limitations, weaknesses and errors. He knows how to effectively deal with this condition.

He knows how to allocate resources fairly and to mobilize them to trigger proper human development. Thus, he is also always thoughtful of everyone, friends and foes alike. He struggles to know their strengths and weaknesses so as to put them in their appropriate places in any given group, community or society. He wants everyone to participate in the effort to achieve the common good and helps everyone to actualize whatever good potentials he has.

For all this, what is truly needed are traits of integrity, selfless dedication, competence, and all the allied virtues. Nothing less than being an authentic man of God is required to be a true leader.

He has to be humble so as to always have that attitude of wanting to serve rather than to be served. He knows how to pass unnoticed while serving. It is the fruits of his deeds that will make him known and popular, not the hype that he creates.

He has to be hopeful and optimistic, for surely there will be difficulties, problems, mistakes and failures along the way. He knows how to begin and begin again and to avoid allowing sadness and bitterness to dominate him.

While he needs to be strong, he also knows how to be gentle, able to bend so as to be flexible and versatile according to the needs of people and of the times. This will make him unflappable in all and any circumstances. He can manage to stand firm and consistent in fulfilling his duties irrespective of the changing conditions.

Indeed, as St. Paul once said, he knows how to be “all things to all men.” (1 Cor 9,22) He is willing to make sacrifices, even extraordinary ones, knowing that a leader is expected to bear the greatest burden in any given situation. He does not shy away from such eventualities.

He remains cheerful whatever the situation. He has a sporting attitude. What matters to him is that he does his best, even if his best is not enough to tackle a particular predicament.

And when faced with his own impotency, he would humbly acknowledge it and looks for somebody else who can help him or even replace him. He is not unduly attached to his position.