Applauding the Pope: Some Leadership Lessons

Some leadership lessons emerged, at least for me, from the Pope’s announcement he was resigning from this high and sacred office. This is a lifetime office, as we know from its history, but Pope Benedict XVI’s took the route that was last taken 600 years ago (actually 598) by Gregory XII in 1415. While I do not know all the details of Benedict’s resignation (and we probably can never know all the details), I believe there are some leadership lessons embedded in this decision.

The Pope says he is resigning for health reasons and fatigue: This is a lesson for all of us. We should pay attention to our bodies and know when it is time to leave our current assignments. When our energy begins to fail, as the Pope noted, then we are not able to give our best thinking and abilities to the assignment at hand. All humans wind down. Sensing and acknowledging that our time is coming to an end is a high degree of emotional intelligence. Those who remain robust and vibrant into their 90s who we celebrate and tout in the media are not the norm. And if you don’t believe that is the case, you haven’t visited a nursing home in awhile.

The wisdom of knowing it is time to resign: I’ve witnessed it and so have others when a person hangs on to a leadership role when they really should step aside. Pope Benedict XVI is demonstrating wisdom in knowing he can no longer oversee the duties of the office. How many times have we watched a leader hang on to the office without forethought of its demands? There is wisdom in this act by knowing when one is no longer able to function adequately in the role assigned to them in a more youthful moment.

The third session for me has to do with the courage: It’s been 598 years since the last Pope resigned. That’s a long tenure of tradition. And the length of tradition can cause us to make unwise decisions….to preserve the office and not the institution. The Pope understands he is not the person to lead the 1 billion member Catholic church forward, so is courageous enough (and humble enough) to know that the time is right for him to step down.

Finally, the last leadership lesson is one of deep concern for the institution: It is easy to place one’s role as a leader above the mission and future of the organization. An effective leader understands when they are no longer able to guide the institution forward in dealing with issues and complexities of the assignment. Often, we know of those who stay well after their time is ended technically, but continue to push on as if nothing is wrong. We call them lame duck…holding a position but ineffectual in doing anything productive. The phrase “lame duck” has its origins, however, from the London stock exchange of 1771 where a person who is “lame duck” cannot pay their debt. In a sense, the Pope and leaders who stay past their ability to perform the assignment are no longer able to pay the debt for the demands of the job. There is wisdom and courage that reminds a person when it is best to leave for the sake of the institution than to become a debtor where staying diminishes the legacy and hamstrings the ability of the organization to function effectively (hamstring which by the way means” to render useless”).

I admire Pope Benedict XVI as a leader in this final act. He has demonstrated for us what must go into every leadership decision when the transfer of power comes. A leader does not have to be 85 to make that decision. It may happen when they are 65, 70, or 55. Many signs will start to appear for a leader and I believe the emotionally intelligent will make the right decision even though it does not seem the best from those looking in from the outside.

Blessings to you Pope Benedict XVI and all those wise leaders who follow your example.

“Keep Blogging”

The past twenty four hours have been rewarding and humbling. Over these hours it was my privilege to talk with a person via Email helping them think of ways to engage a family member diagnosed in the past 48 hours or so with a high level prostate cancer. As the shock turned to seeking information, the person went to the internet to find assistance. They came across my own blog and honest sharing about my journey with prostate cancer. They found it useful and I was blessed to guide them in this unexpected place in their lives.

When writing a blog, one always wonders “who cares?” It might feel like you are writing just for yourself. And realistically for the most part, we probably are. Most people probably skip over them when posted or shared in places like Facebook or Twitter or the blog is simply “not their cup of tea.” But what I discovered in this exchange is that if my blogging helps just one person out of 6 billion on the planet, it was well worth it.

The lesson for me and I hope for you is keep blogging. It may be that neither you nor I will ever get recognized for anything we write. Maybe we will get a “hit” now and again. But if your words of encouragement, guidance, experience or insight help one…it has been worth the time and effort.

Blessings to all bloggers. Keep at it because one may never know the impact your experiences might have in another’s life. Grace and peace.
David Neidert

A Model for Reconciliation

My mother passed away on November 7, 2010.  She was a wonderful woman, as witnessed by hundreds who came to her funeral.  As my brother, sister, and I reflected on her life during her funeral, I penned the following.  I give it to those interested as a means for reflecting on your own life.  Blessings as you read this tribute.

A Tribute to Mom (from a son, David Lynn)

At the funeral of V. Patricia Neidert 

            Each of us, as grown children, experienced mom in different ways.  Mine was as a student of the Bible, which I have studied for the past thirty years of my life.  Mom loved to talk about the Bible.  It was important to her.  You could often find us perched on the bar stools in the homestead family room talking about it or engaging each other over the telephone about its place in our lives and faith.

            Living out her faith was like breathing for mom.  She may not have understood all the intricate nuances of the Bible or theology, but one element she understood instinctively was reconciliation; repairing broken things.

            Mom often worked behind the scenes to fix broken relationships. She didn’t always have it right, but she wanted friends and family to work together to repair what might be broken in the world or in their personal lives.

            Her whole life she tried to reconcile a broken place in her own experience by finding her birth family, which she never achieved.  It was an ongoing desire that never was quenched.  It was in that struggle, I think, that she somehow found in her daily life the connection for modeling and pursuing avenues for restoring broken relationships to wholeness wherever she encountered them.  Brokenness was something she personally knew.

            Restoration is sometimes hard, painful, and not easy, but mom knew it was worth the work and effort.  Because she loved the teaching of the Bible, she knew that in Christ we can be restored to wholeness.  That is the message of all scripture and one that mom understood well.

            While mom may not have understood theology, she knew sometimes we have to stand and fight for right, justice, and restoration; and challenged friends and family to do the same.

            The text of 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21 is about the ministry of reconciliation; to be ambassadors of Christ.  While she may not have known it, this scripture is central to us as believers.  It reads:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (TNIV)

            Mom sometimes simply shared about her faith and reconciliation, but always taught it and lived it out by example.  She wasn’t perfect (the only perfect things were her three children; if you spent any time with her, she would tell you that.  In the hospital, she introduced me again and again to nurses and aids.  She did the same with my brother and sister).  But mom tried to fix brokenness in family, friends, the RISK program at Green Local Schools (a program for teens) and in the church.  She knew the emotion in her own life of brokenness; somehow it may have helped her understand why it is important for all of us as human beings to be restored.

            We will honor her life in the days to come if we enter the primary relationship of all; the one we are invited to accept with Christ, who restored all humanity and the universe to God.

            That is what mom would have wanted all of us to know today.  We can be restored to God through Christ and become part of a ministry she modeled and held dear.  Brokenness fixed; wholeness coming to life.

            Her body in the end was broken; now it is whole.  That is the ultimate gift of God through Christ.  A hope she knew that would be reality as she experienced Christ face to face.

            Mom would have wanted one final prayer and blessing for you all on this day.  It comes from Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians 13:14:

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (TNIV)