All of us have aspects of our job that we love and other aspects that we put up with, in order to carry on doing our job. Not long ago, a member told me how much she loved working with jets. An aspect of her trade that she did not like, however, was the fact that the senior leadership of her trade seemed out of touch, even uninterested, in real working conditions. Everything was planned around an agenda with little care for “actual life”.
That began a discussion about what a leader’s responsibility truly is. On the battlefields, a leader can rally troops, and reveal the way members should take. A feeling of solidarity should exist, and shared goals should be foremost in mind. A leader needs to be a model of behaviour and show this by living in a reality that eventually becomes true for everyone.
To sit upon a throne and take glory in one’s position, or to use authority to impose one’s will, are secondary and even rather harmful elements of leadership. So many of us wish to see that our leaders have “come to serve, not to be served, and to give their life for the many”. What we see too often, sadly, is leadership behaving as though they were the core element of any activity.
As a chaplain, I try to help members identify courses of action that will make life more workable for them, and to find a positive way forward, even if that means merely the beginnings of a way forward. Sometimes what I’m told, and sometimes what I experience, reminds me of the courtroom scene (Chapter 12) of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The Queen of Hearts, who presides over a session with the King, demands that a sentence be declared before enough evidence or the verdict has been given.
‘Let the jury consider their verdict,’ the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.
‘No, no, ‘ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first – verdict afterwards.’
‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’
‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.
‘I won’t!’ said Alice.
‘Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.
Often enough we feel that this scene, rather than any other example, is what sets the standard for what happens when a decision is made. Some of the right words are used, and even in context, but the order of things goes topsy-turvy. Alice has the courage and integrity to point out that something has gone amiss, but the reaction is hostile and out of proportion.
It seems, nevertheless, that the world dooms itself to living this absurd scene over and over again, out of pride and its symptoms, stubbornness and impatience; when all it would take is for a leader to be receptive and thoughtful to bring about a different, and, dare it to be said, constructive outcome.