Our Leaders Our Selves


I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent more minutes than I’d like to admit railing about Mayor Kilpatrick and John (and Elizabeth) Edwards this week.  My talk has been mostly – if not completely purposeless.  I’ve just been part of the Greek chorus of outraged citizens.  I don’t think I’ve enlightened anyone else or likely made myself more moral as a result.  So, why write more?  Well, here’s a really weird connection.

Every year the State of Michigan’s Office of Great Workplace Development does a survey of employees regarding the workplace culture.  The survey asks “how evident” the values of Integrity, Excellence, Teamwork and Inclusion are.  It asks this at five levels:  in general, in departmental leadership, of one’s boss, of one’s co-workers and of the employee filling out the survey.  Can you guess the consistent result?  Who gets the highest rating?  Why, the person filling out the survey!!!  Over 90% of people say they not only demonstrate excellence but also show integrity, inclusiveness and teamwork almost always, or all the time.  They rate their co-workers pretty well, their boss less well, their departmental leadership less, and the state government as a whole the lowest.  The results are consistent across the four values and across all departments.  Isn’t that amusing?  And needless to say it makes NO LOGICAL SENSE: if each of us were so incredibly good then wouldn’t it have to follow that we’re pretty good as whole?

What’s the connection to Mayor Kilpatrick or Senator Edwards?  It’s the human connection!  We judge leaders harshly (those who ask to lead us invite that scrutiny), but they are just human and so are we.  Their colossal failures distract us from our work – this crazy hard work of being a human being of integrity.  As parents we teach love, but sometimes we’re not so loving.  As bosses we expect communication but forget to communicate.  As pastors (literally “leaders of flocks”) we proclaim God’s mercy but forget to trust and experience that mercy ourselves.

I can hardly imagine being in the painful shoes that these leaders have put upon themselves and invited us to tighten excruciatingly around their feet of clay.  But in the end, you and I walk in our own shoes.  There’s always a gap between the behaviors I preach and those I demonstrate.  Maybe there’s some value to the madness if you and I gain a little more courage to see our faults and own them before we cause others and ourselves so much of the pain that flows from deceit of ourselves and those we lead, hopefully

With our best selves!