Sunday, June 9, 2013

Who is the True Leader?

Most of the parents today want their children to grow up to be  leaders in society.  Who are these leaders in society? asks the columnist writing in the opinion page of the Catholic Times. Are they not those who have succeeded in life and have some influence in society? He says that in our world a person does not find it easy to be in a position of influence, to wield power over others, for  the mass media is always ready to put our leaders on the chopping block. Most of our leaders  have been elected to their positions of power, thus being beholden to those who have elected them.

Even those in high positions who are not elected are faced with the same situation, the columnist reminds us. Junior officials who are visited by senior officials no longer treat them, as in the past, with meals and perks. When this is done, much is made of it and the mass media is there to make news of the situation. This is seen as a sign of the democratization of the culture. Today, leadership that honors respect and service is what wins followers, without these qualities it is difficult to lead.

Politeness, respect and sincerity are stressed in the Analects of Confucius, in keeping with one of the principles of Confucianism: "Don't do to others what you do not want them to do to you." In Confucian philosophy, one should show concern for the other more than for oneself, to respect and serve the other humbly.

Though the respectful way the young behaved with their elders in the past is fast disappearing nowadays, our narrow thinking and concerns about the customer is being replaced by a concern for all citizens. Respect and service leadership is becoming the predominant social climate.  

Chondogyo, meaning "the heavenly way," is a native Korean religion. We are to respect others, they say, like we do the heavenly realm, which is another way of stressing the respect and service way of life. The columnist thinks that this central idea of Chondogyo may have a great deal to do with what it received from Christianity.  The washing of the disciples' feet is a prime example of this thinking, and is illustrated in other ways in the life of Jesus.

This has been a teaching for a long time, both in the East and in the West, but the journalist wonders how universal the idea is. The way the weak suffer daily at the hands of the strong, one is forced to conclude, he says, that all our talk about respect and service has had no more influence on how society operates than do mere slogans. If that is the case, the writer considers all that he has written  as mere slogans, less than the truth--"lies," he calls them. However, even if this respect and service leadership ideal has not done much to improve the conditions of the poor and suffering among us, he does proclaim that it has now spread throughout the world. Perhaps in time the reality will also spread throughout the world, and be the reality not only for the few of us but for all of us.


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