It was refreshing to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury in a recent interview confess that one of the most dispiriting aspects of his role was "not living up to people's expectations". All too often we expect far too much of those who are asked to carry the burden of leadership in contemporary society, and because of that they massage their achievements to bridge the gulf between reality and what we expect of them.
What a change to hear a major public figure being honest, and admitting he has not lived up to our expectations. Would that more would follow his bold example, instead of misleading us with "spin" and blinding themselves to the more intractable aspects of their tasks. The result is that we believe less and less of what they tell us and become more and more cynical, dismissing all public figures as tarred with the same brush.
We generally operate with two models of leadership. There are the visionaries who stride ahead in quest of their ideals, not too concerned whether they have our full-hearted support or not, and there are those who seek to reconcile differences and move forward with consensus. There are those in the Church who want an Archbishop who will adopt the former pattern – provided of course that his ideals equate precisely with their own. And there are those who look for a mediator, who will draw people together and heal divisions, but that can happen only where people are willing to listen to one another and make compromises, which is just not the case in come of the church's current controversies. Compromise also makes it more difficult to see precisely what the new goal should be.
It would be good if we could have a similar display of honesty among our national and local politicians. It might then become easier for all of us to get involved in the real struggles of today and work to find the solutions that benefit the majority. Honest leaders inspire trust in those they lead – and that's what we need today, more than anything else. MALCOLM
- February 2004
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About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.