WHEN a country faces a crisis, there are often calls for leadership. Publicity material may try to convey one political party's views of what leadership should be; politicians try to look leaderlike in the hopes of convincing us that a vote for them will give us the leadership we need. Yet at the end of all the imagemaking, the real nature of leadership may still seem a bit vague. Leaders as individuals are so varied that it is difficult to come up with a clear concept of what a good leader should be. One place to look for qualities that good leaders should have is the Bible. It tells us much about what qualities of life and thought will help leaders and their people.
Strength, intelligence, joy, and wisdom are a few qualities that seem to predominate as one considers the lives of the patriarchs and prophets. And certainly these would be qualities we would want to see in modern-day leaders as well. In fact, these are elements we would probably want to express in our own lives, too.
But underlying these is something deeper: the focus of these Biblical leaders' lives was on God and on man's relationship to God. The most effective leaders seem to grasp something of man's true spiritual nature and endeavor to live more in accord with this spirituality than with a material view of existence that rejects God and His divine law.
This concept of putting God in the center of one's life was brought to full fruition by Christ Jesus. He turned constantly to God for guidance, and through his teachings he made clear that those who wanted to follow him should do the same. But he also expected something of his disciples in terms of their relationship to others.
At the close of his ministry he told them, ``A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.''1 From this we can extend our concept of leadership to include not just love for God but also love for man.
Yet this expectation of love for God and man wasn't just for leaders -- it was for all who would follow Christ, the spiritual truth of God and man. So our role isn't to wait passively for the right leader. It is to cultivate a clear sense of the leadership qualities by expressing them ourselves. We do this by actively striving to understand our spiritual heritage as sons and daughters of God. This by itself will cause a profound change in our view of our lives and of God, Mind.
As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Absorbed in material selfhood we discern and reflect but faintly the substance of Life or Mind. The denial of material selfhood aids the discernment of man's spiritual and eternal individuality, and destroys the erroneous knowledge gained from matter or through what are termed the material senses.''2
We deny material selfhood by understanding that God made man spiritual and that in truth we are spiritual. Our thoughts, purpose, and goals have a spiritual basis. When we think this way about choosing leaders, we find that our spirituality has a great impact on what we look for.
If, for instance, we have learned to love Truth, we will no doubt be looking for truthful leaders. If we understand the peacemaking power of spiritual love, we will surely wish to have leaders who express this quality. Overall, however, the basic spiritual standard is the twofold idea -- love for God and love for man.
Evaluating our leaders in these terms isn't always easy. Not all leaders who claim to be religious are so; and some whose lives have a profoundly spiritual basis don't make this public. But there are certain clues that we can look for that will help us. For instance, a true leader would act more from a spiritual standpoint, so he would express compassion not vindictiveness, intelligence not willfulness, love not hate. And love for God could be exhibited through humility, because a truly humble person has realized that he is not the center of the universe. Whether or not he calls that center ``God,'' there is at least an acceptance of something higher than himself.
Intelligence and love in one's approach to potential voters or constituents is a very telling sign of a leader's attitude toward his fellow humans. And careful observation of a political or other figure will often show us much more than the faade, however polished it may be.
I remember attending -- along with some other citizens -- a rather intense session with a congressman. I had spent quite a bit of time in prayer before going because I wanted to be able to understand his standpoint and also to perceive the facts of the situation that was scheduled for discussion. In the midst of the session, I suddenly realized that the feelings he was expressing were coming from his heart and his experience, not from any desire for political gain. He was, in fact, standing up for the rights of individuals being roundly criticized by several of those attending. Up until then he had seemed nice but rather polished and slick. That one insight into his sincere desire to do right totally changed my view.
My study of the Bible's leaders has made me sterner -- in the sense of really looking for the spiritual qualities that are needed -- in evaluating my leaders and myself. But it has also given me compassion. The Bible's leaders had their share of human weaknesses. Yet they made an impact because they followed God and were moved as well with love for humanity.
This dynamic combination, lived, is certainly the key to compassionate and intelligent leadership.
1John 13:34. 2Science and Health, p. 91.