Who is a leader? What do we expect of a leader? When do we say that a leader is good or effective? The people in Jesus’ time also asked similar questions. Who is the Messiah? What should we expect of a Messiah? Are you the one?
In Jesus’ time, as well as in ours, many have looked for a powerful person to be a leader – an influencer. A good speaker, charismatic, bold and fearless. Someone with a strong personality. Maybe a rich person or someone who comes from an affluent family. A dominant person who would impose himself on all those who go against him. These are the qualities the scribes were looking for in a Messiah. They were expecting the Christ to be the son of David. Wise, strong, victorious, and of royal lineage. These are the qualities many of us look for in a leader today.
When a group is feeling down and defeated, deceived or belittled, this is the kind of leader they might wish for. And when they do get a person who fits this mold, sooner or later, they might begin to realize, that this person does not and cannot always deliver. Many times, people like this are filled more with “hot air” than anything logical or substantial. He/She rises like a balloon, amazing and inspiring, for some time, but eventually proves to be all noise and bravado but bereft with meaning. And the very people who put them in position might be the same ones who would speak against them or bring them down altogether. A true leader is not just power and strength. He/She needs more than a growling voice and manners that are bold and unapologetic.
There are, on the other hand, some people, maybe a meager minority, who, in a leader, look for qualities like God-fearing and people-loving, committed to the people. Their guiding principle is selfless service for others, truth, justice and compassion. He may not be a dominator, but is a servant of God for humanity. And as the words of St. Paul to Timothy would intimate, a leader should trust in the words of “sacred Scriptures, which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus”. In the Gospel, Jesus seems to favor the latter.
In fact, Jesus is exactly this kind of a leader: wise and understanding; obedient to the Father and reaching out to the smaller people; just and merciful; firm and compassionate; generous and selfless. He is Lord, but does not stand high above the others. He is God but he experienced all the pains and the struggles of being human, except sin. He is a leader who was led to the slaughter and died that we may live.
In one way or the other, we are all leaders or at least we exercise leadership roles. Parents are leaders to their children. Kuya’s and Ate’s are leaders to their younger siblings. The Barangay Tanod and Captain lead the people in the neighborhood. The Police are leaders of citizens especially for peace and order in the streets and the neighborhood. The armed forces are leaders of citizens for justice, for peace and order throughout the country. Government officials are leaders of the nation towards progress and development of all citizens. Priests are leaders of people in their life of faith and morals. Teachers are leaders of students in their academic formation. Students are leaders of one another, exercised by example, in the pursuit of learning and virtue. And so we ask:
- Of whom am I a leader? Who do I lead? Who looks up to me as a leader? For whom am I responsible, as a leader?
- What kind of a leader am I? Do I lead by FORCE, instill FEAR, impose unquestioning obedience and aim for the fulfillment of my own interests?
- or Do I lead by example after seeking counsel? Do I LISTEN to the pulse of the people and try to respond to their needs? Do I work for PEACE and ORDER, for PROGRESS and DEVELOPMENT and equal opportunities for everyone?
- HOW DO I LEAD?