Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
The Gospel reading today is about leadership. The mother of two of Jesus’ followers wants Jesus to give her sons positions of leadership. She wants them to be powerful.
But that is not how Jesus wants leadership to be exercised. For Jesus, leadership means service.
Some years ago, a leading university did a study about leadership styles. They wanted to learn why some very smart people ended up being very unsuccessful.
The study showed that the number 1 reason why smart leaders fail is arrogance. These leaders do not respect the opinions of those they are supposed to be leading. They do not work at building consensus.
In contrast, humble – humble, not arrogant — leaders get superior results.
Some years ago, several members of a religious community asked me for a meeting. They were frustrated with the leader of their community. I asked them, “What’s the problem.” They said that their leader didn’t respect them. For example, their leader once said, “It’s difficult being a superior in this community because most of the members are …” Well, I won’t repeat what he called them. But it wasn’t respectful.
The famous expert on management styles, Peter Drucker, once said: “Never promote people into leadership positions who believe they can do no wrong” People who believe they are never wrong always end up falling on their faces.
Jesus asked his two ambitious young followers, “Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?” He was asking them if they were prepared to imitate his style of leadership. It is leadership that is ready to give one’s life as a ransom for the others. It is leadership that calls for sacrifice.
Every good parent strives to be that kind of leader in a family. Every priest and bishop and abbot should strive to do the same.
Reflection by Archbishop Jerome Hanus, OSB