The Dean's Reflection with John Dobson
There has been an incredible reaction to the genuinely historic American presidential election. What kind of president will President-elect Donald Trump prove to be?
Even the experts can only speculate on how this will work out for the USA and the world. But, isn’t that always the case when a new leader is elected? Will the promises be kept?
The Institute of Management once published a book on leadership, entitled Leaders on Leadership. It contains a foreword by Prince Philip and contributions by a selection of leaders from business, military and civil service backgrounds.
Different styles of, and essentials for, leadership are explored. What makes for a successful leader?
Prince Philip suggests that the most important talent for anyone aspiring to be a leader is good judgement – he points out that Napoleon asked for ‘lucky’ generals. Whether getting it right is a matter of good luck or judgement, we must pray that President Trump will be blessed with the gift for it.
Leaders on Leadership comes to the all-too-obvious conclusion that all the facets that are required for successful leadership are seldom found in one person.
The wise leader, then, will look to work closely with a team of people with a variety of skills. But he or she will need to be the person holding and articulating the vision for whatever organisation or community is being led. People need to know the direction of travel and the values that are to be owned and to shape the journey.
This perhaps explains some of the anxiety for many following both the Brexit referendum and the American presidential election. Are the values right?
For example, is genuine concern for those who seem to be suffering from present economic and political arrangements in danger of encouraging racism?
Some think this is so.
And yet, very helpfully during the Brexit campaign, the Archbishop of Canterbury pointed out that those with genuine concerns about high levels of immigration could not necessarily be dismissed as racist.
Also, there may be other principles and values that people wish to see upheld by national leaders and political parties that seem to have been undermined in Mr Trump’s campaign, such as regarding men and women as equal. Perhaps his real views are yet to be revealed.
I wonder, whom would we include on a list of great leaders? A number of people have influenced me from a variety of different fields: politics, the church, charities, business. When young, I was certainly impressed by accounts of the leadership of Winston Church: a person who had not been perfect but who had managed to unite the will and effort of a nation to conquer, against all the odds, the forces of an evil regime. And that prompts the thought that our acts of Remembrance last weekend are a reminder of the heavy price that can be paid by the world when the wrong leaders with evil values are allowed to gain power.
There is one leader I become increasingly convinced by. Jesus Christ knew what it was like to be a popular leader, fleetingly. When he entered Jerusalem on his donkey, showing humility and a love of peace, the crowds went wild with joy. But only days later, they were crying out: “Crucify him!”
Popular opinion can soon change! Yet, the crucifixion of the one who was none less than Emmanuel - God with us, as we shall celebrate at Christmas - also reveals to us that here is a leader with perfect integrity who is prepared to die for us.
In Ripon Cathedral on Sunday we are celebrating the Feast of Christ the King. Churches throughout this district and around the world will be doing the same as the Church reaches the end of its annual cycle. Advent Sunday, the Church’s New Year’s Day, is the following Sunday, November 27 – following the not-to-be-missed Christmas Gift and Food Fair on Saturday, November 26. This Sunday’s celebration of Christ as King of heaven and earth represents the end of the story.
It is a celebration, in faith, made possible by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Christ’s rule on earth will, in the end, be as complete as it is in heaven.
I become more convinced that if people are genuinely looking for a better world, one in which everyone is valued and people work together for the good of all, in which there is always hope, then they should take time to find out more about Jesus Christ.
This is the leader, the Son of God, who had the courage to challenge what was wrong and demonstrate what heaven-like living looks like.
And this is the leader who had the wisdom to know that he would need others to work with him, teaching them to pray; “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”