“Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them,

and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

But it shall not be so among you:

but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto,

but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28, KJV)

The word the Athenians used for their Assembly was Ekklesia, the same word used in the New Testament for Church
(and it is the greatest philological irony in all of Western history that this word,
which connoted equal participation in all deliberation by all members,
came to designate a kind of self-perpetuating, self-protective Spartan gerousia -
which would have seemed patent nonsense to Greek-speaking Christians of New Testament times,
who believed themselves to be equal members of their Assembly.)

- Thomas Cahill, Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

Lee Iacocca recently wrote a book entitled Where Have All the Leaders Gone?. In his book he describes the true characteristics of leaders and leadership. In reading some passages from the book, I found some interesting parallels between the events taking place currently in our Greek Orthodox community in Salt Lake City within the larger issues Mr. Iacocca addresses.

Mr. Iacocca is eloquent in describing the characteristics of leadership in great detail. I would like to offer a synopsis of these. He calls these characteristics the "Nine Cs of Leadership." They are clear, obvious qualities that every true leader ought to exemplify. Here is Mr. Iacocca’s “C” list of Nine, along with some thoughts on how they might relate to some of the issues in our community:

A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the "Yes, sir" crowd in his inner circle. … If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn't put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he's right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. …

Our leadership seems quite content to cling to the status quo, to be afraid to step out of the box, terrified of upsetting the apple cart, and afraid to ‘go out on a limb’. All too many of them are content to hide behind the screed “we are a hierarchical church”. This phrase ends the discussion for them. This is not leadership. If this is really true, then they are not needed at all. Let the clergy make the decisions. Let them govern as they will. If our elected council members are content to be but ministers to a clerical hierarchy, and not to stand up for the wishes of their constituents, then why have parish council elections at all? Let the clergy appoint its minions and forget the pretense of a having a representative body.

A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different…think outside the box. …

When leading members of our community formulate a highly workable, highly creative plan to better our community, a plan that will ensure that badly needed repairs, maintenance and upgrades will be made and paid for, a plan that will provide for new avenues with which to generate revenues, a plan that 72% of those present at the special general assembly supported, our leadership decided to acquiesce to the veto by the Archdiocese who claimed the plan violated “the spirit” of the Uniform Parish Regulations. That kind of “creativity” we don’t need!

A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I'm not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I'm talking about facing reality and telling the truth. … Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it's painful. …

Our hierarchs have, sadly, failed in this category over and over again. Whether it is covering up sexual improprieties, transferring priests with known problems to other unsuspecting communities, or simply saying one thing, doing another, communication of the sort that Mr. Iacocca is describing has been sorely lacking.

A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power." …

Lord Acton said it best, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” A strong laity is a much needed check to curb excesses from an unfettered hierarchy, just as a strong clergy ought to provide a clear, consistent moral compass to the laity. Each has its role to play. One ought not totally dominate the other. Each needs to “have the guts to do the right thing” no matter the consequences.

A leader must have COURAGE…. Tough talk isn't courage. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk. If you're a politician, courage means taking a position even when there is a cost.

Our leaders say one thing in their public appearances and refrain from answering the hard questions. Those who dare ask these questions are threatened with excommunication. When the clergy can remove OUR elected member off a board, because he pointed out inconsistencies and dared to ask the tough questions, we ALL have a problem. When our board is cowed by the threat of removal, and by the threat of excommunication, I submit that the system is deeply flawed, and/or, that we have elected the wrong people. I’m convinced that no one, clergyman or not, would have gotten away with treating our grandparents or parents in this manner when they were the community’s leaders.

To be a leader you've got to have CONVICTION, a fire in your belly. You've got to have passion. You've got to really want to get something done.

I will grant that those who serve in the clergy and those who serve on the Parish Council have this trait. I do not believe that anyone is doing this work without having conviction. I submit that what is not being demonstrated is the courage of those convictions, even if it means displeasing those ostensibly in power. It means standing up for what is right, rather than what is easy.

A leader should have CHARISMA. I'm not talking about being flashy. Charisma is the quality that makes people want to follow you. It's the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him.

Who wants to follow leadership that dismisses the will of 72% of an assembled gathering’s expressed wishes? What kind of leadership thwarts the will of its constituency? Charisma comes from the Greek word “charis” (grace). Is it gracious to find “alternative” solutions, i.e., a “violation of the spirit” of the UPR when one’s viewpoint is clearly in the minority? Is it gracious to boot off a board member because he points out the duplicitous nature of the “alternative” solution? Is it gracious to attempt to cow your flock by threatening any dissent with excommunication?

A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn't it? You've got to know what you're doing. More important than that, you've got to surround yourself with people who know what they're doing, and you defer to their expertise to complement your own.

It is difficult to live up to this leadership component when the hierarchy and clergy seem to be more interested in wielding a draconian power, rather than in competent church governance. Parish councils are comprised mostly of educators, business and professional persons, who ought to complement the clergy’s work in spiritual matters by handling the more secular duties of daily operations, along with the church’s growth and outreach programs. This is the system that used to be in place. It did not always work perfectly; nothing does in this imperfect world. But it was a just, reasonable and practical division of expertise and function that led to reasonable and competent governance.

You can't be a leader if you don't have COMMON SENSE.

Common sense dictates that in addition to a deep yearning for the spiritual, human beings respond favorably to governance that is reasonable, fair and just. Common sense dictates that leveraging your assets in the most efficient way will provide better facilities and revenues for more opportunities. Common sense further dictates that people do not like being threatened, and do not respond well to a system of “pay, pray and obey”.

The Biggest C is CRISIS. Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis.

We clearly have a crisis in our church. Our clergy is displaying an unprecedented contempt for its flock when it resorts to threats, expulsions and excommunication. The Body and Blood of the Savior should NOT be used as a weapon. That it is being used as such is not only appalling, it is tragic. It is outrageous, but more, it is sad – sad that our clergy have sunk so low, sad that our leadership does not stand to a man and say, “whatever our differences, this is NOT acceptable.”

And, with all due respect to Mr. Iacocca, I would like to add my two “C’s” worth. Let’s add to this list that leaders should be CONSISTENT and COMPASSIONATE.

Archbishop Isaiah recently sent out a letter and asked that we, Greek Orthodox Christians, embrace compassion and forgive a heretofore respected clergyman of many years who, it was discovered, had engaged in acts of pedophilia with an altar boy. We are asked to look past the victim’s enduring pain, past our revulsion at the act, past our fears for our children, grandchildren, godchildren, nieces, nephews, the children of our friends, and to show COMPASSION.

Yet I ask, not only in the name of COMPASSION, but for the sake of CONSISTENCY, where is the same compassion, where is the consistency in our hierarch’s actions toward our fellow parishioner who, for reasons that are trifling in comparison to those of the clergyman, was removed from the Parish Council and was excommunicated for five years, including being denied the right to Orthodox Christian burial? At the same time, the hierarchy will not defrock this clergyman so that when he dies, he will be buried with the full honors due a priest.

Mr. Iacocca asks: "Where have all the leaders gone? Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense?” To which I would add, where are the charismatic, compassionate, consistent and, yet another “C”, Christian ones?

- Barbara Billinis Colessides

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