* This is an excerpt from the essay All Shine: How Stewardship Built a Vision
The world has always been in extraordinary need, and that’s not going to change. We live on a planet with natural laws, including weather patterns, ecosystems, and the presence of a large variety of organisms all competing with one another for survival. The common reality faced by all organisms is the inevitability of death and the desire to continue on with living until that inevitable event happens.
For individual human beings, survival includes the need to be safe, accepted, nourished and happy as defined by each individual. A significant portion of our survival is addressed by the development of society, which includes the development of local, national and international laws and armed services which protect us, physical infrastructures that transport and house us, agricultural systems that feed us, medical services that heal us, and institutions that organize, educate and serve us.
So, we can’t get away from the fact that human beings need organizations, both small and large to take care of our world. We are continually organizing resources, building/managing institutions which curate and distribute those resources, and placing people in leadership positions to provide direction in the management of those resources. Leadership is also needed to facilitate the ongoing development and management of abstract resources like scientific knowledge, political and economic theory, moral frameworks and religious/spiritual systems.
Like it or not, we will always need organizations, which means that we will always need leaders.
Put in the plainest possible terms, human beings are called upon to be stewards of our world, and this means we are sometimes called upon to take initiative and to step out in front of others to influence the direction of that stewardship. In the best possible scenario, those of us who choose to step out possess the fundamental asset that best qualifies us to ask others to place their trust in us: empathy.
In optimal circumstances, people in leadership positions care about people and act in good faith to actively serve them. But, even a cursory glance at the leadership landscape reveals to us that many leaders operate out of narcissism, ego-centric agendas, and short-term gains at the expense of others, and frequently act with a destructive, even sadistic need to triumph over people.
The world is burning, because we fail to recognize the traits of narcissistic leadership and continue to promote narcissistic leaders into positions of power throughout the entire maze of society’s institutions. We need to learn how to spot these people before elevating them. But, more importantly, we need to learn how to spot those we can trust to take responsible stewardship of our resources.
It’s time for us to identify the traits we should expect from genuinely caring leaders and to promote the understanding of those traits far and wide, if we hope to adequately attend to the extraordinary needs of the world we share.
We can start by examining the characteristics and behaviors of Servant Leaders.