What makes for a good leader? Christians have Jesus as an example, and we begin with him today as we journey through the new liturgical year of 2013. On the first day of January, as world citizens, we usher in the new year, and on February 10th, as Asians, we usher in the lunar new year. Today, as Christians, we wait liturgically for the birth of Jesus and go on to grow by his example in the yearly review and study of his life.
Writing in the Catholic Times, a columnist tells us of rereading a book on ethics for public servants, written 50 years ago. The second reading was prompted, he said, by the daily media reports, commentaries and evaluations of the candidates running for president of the country.
The book, he says, gives us the qualities that a politician should have and what he should avoid. According to the author, the ethos of a good leader is consistency, fortified by penetrating conviction, followed by the need, both in word and action, to act on these convictions. In addition, the leader should strive to make the will of the people his mandate for change, and should accept with patience all criticisms that may come his way, as possibly useful advice to be explored and acted upon in the future.
To be avoided are personal traits that come from human cupidity and that can lead to the distortion of democracy: the lust for power, excessive personal profit motivated by avarice, loss of dignity because of vanity, and favoritism that breeds all kinds of injustices.
The columnist would like these traits to be the standard by which to judge the candidates for the presidency. No one, he said, should rate a 100 percent evaluation, but an excellent rating can be the high goal that all should strive for. Even if this is not a possibility, he said, we should pick the best of the two candidates. It so happens that both candidates have known Catholicism first hand. One considers himself a Catholic, and the other was once a Catholic.
We should have the intention of electing a leader with the qualities of the good shepherd, he said. A leader with whom we can enjoy liberty and order, who searches for love and justice, listens to the people, is humble and willing to sacrifice; one who can inspire us with his hopes and dreams, and lead us in the way of life and truth. A leader who is concerned for the poor and alienated, and can unite us as a nation.
Jesus was such a leader; he came to be our friend and continues to come to us as a friend. Our response is to have an open heart, changing our seeing from bodily eyes to spiritual eyes, in order to see what is impossible to see with the bodily eyes. The Good Shepherd model that we have is not only for politicians and public servants but for all of us. And thankfully we have another whole new year to work toward its attainment.