Tag Archives: heart of a leader

20 August, Saturday – Greatness Redefined

20 August – Memorial for St. Bernard, Abbot, Doctor

Bernard (1090-1153) founded and led a monastery which had over 700 monks and 160 daughter houses. He revised and reformed the Cistercians, and was advisor to, and admonisher of, King Louis the Fat and King Louis the Young, and spritual advisor to Pope Eugenius III, who had originally been one of his monks. Every morning Bernard would ask himself, “Why have I come here?”, and then remind himself of his main duty – to lead a holy life.

– Patron Saint Index

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Ezekiel 43:1-7

The angel took me to the gate, the one facing east. I saw the glory of the God of Israel approaching from the east. A sound came with it, like the sound of the ocean, and the earth shone with his glory. This vision was like the one I had seen when I had come for the destruction of the city, and like the one I had seen on the bank of the river Chebar. Then I prostrated myself.

The glory of the Lord arrived at the Temple by the east gate. The spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; I saw the glory of the Lord fill the Temple. And I heard someone speaking to me from the Temple while the man stood beside me. The voice said, ‘Son of man, this is the dais of my throne, the step on which I rest my feet. I shall live here among the sons of Israel for ever.’

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Matthew 23:1-12

Addressing the people and his disciples Jesus said, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees occupy the chair of Moses. You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say; but do not be guided by what they do: since they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they! Everything they do is done to attract attention, like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels, like wanting to take the place of honour at banquets and the front seats in the synagogues, being greeted obsequiously in the market squares and having people call them Rabbi.

‘You, however, must not allow yourselves to be called Rabbi, since you have only one master, and you are all brothers. You must call no one on earth your father, since you have only one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor must you allow yourselves to be called teachers, for you have only one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you must be your servant. Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.’

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“The greatest among you must be your servant”

I never really knew my dad, who passed away in 2006, having grown up in Singapore while he lived in Taiwan from the time I was about 10. Oddly, I remember having a couple of conversations with him about work. While the actual conversations are really vague (40 odd years IS a long time!), the main topic was about his bosses during the time he was working as a geophysicist. The feeling I got was that his bosses were less-than-ideal and his brushes with his bosses were great fodder for a father-and-son chat. What struck me was his comment that he would have made a better boss.

I have gone on to enter the working world since those conversations with my dad and have had similar conversations with friends and colleagues about ‘bosses’. Yes, we had good bosses and more bad ones. Again, many conversations ended with the conclusion that we would make better bosses than the ones we had.

However, no conversation ever took place about what it meant to be a great leader. I suspect that if we did have these discussions, we would probably have said that our bosses would be totally knowledgeable, impartial, kind, caring, fair, funny, balanced and driven.

My thoughts about great leadership came about when I was leading teams in my jobs. While I understood what attributes a great leader should have, I found it extremely difficult to manage. Work was not just about dealing or managing the team, but also working with clients, (highly) expectant bosses and other stakeholders. To this day, I feel I had fallen short of the qualities that I had deemed important qualities of great leadership.

Today’s gospel goes contrary to the way leadership is viewed in the commercial world. While I thought what I was practicing was ‘servant leadership’, the reality was that the whole basis of my leadership was self-serving. At the foundation of the approach still lay the need to have recognition from others. I wanted my team to think that I was the best boss they ever had, while achieving top results in terms of performance. Without realizing it, I wanted my bosses to pat me on my back, singing my praises.

The basis of true ‘servant leadership’ cannot be so. One cannot be a true servant with even one eye on ourselves; we would be too busy protecting our own interests if we were to do so. We can model and draw strength from our Lord, who gave up His life to show us the true meaning of what ‘servant leadership’ really means.

“Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which was still in the cross, He endured the cross, disregarding the shamefulness of it, and from now has taken His place at the right of God’s throne. Think of the way He stood such opposition from sinners and then you will not give up for want of courage. In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of death.”(Heb 12:2-4)

(Today’s OXYGEN by Paul Wee)

Prayer: Father, we pray that we can be true servant leaders and become conduits of Your love. Help us Father to not look at ourselves in our service to others, and to You.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for showing us the right path to take, to be more like You. Thank you Lord for always giving us strength to make the right choices as we walk towards Your eternal kingdom.

25 July, Monday – Leading by becoming a servant

25 July – Feast of St. James, Apostle

St. James (died 44) was the first Apostle to be martyred. He preached in Samaria, Judea, and Spain. His work in Spain, and the housing of his relics there, led to his patronage of the country and all things Spanish.

Like all men of renown, many stories grew up around St. James. In one, he brought back to life a boy who had been unjustly hanged, and had been dead for five weeks. The boy’s father was notified of the miracle while he sat at supper. The father pronounced the story nonsense, and said his son was no more alive than the roasted fowl on the table; the cooked bird promptly sat up, sprouted feathers, and flew away.

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2 Corinthians 4:7-15

We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are consigned to our death every day, for the sake of Jesus, so that in our mortal flesh the life of Jesus, too, may be openly shown. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

But as we have the same spirit of faith that is mentioned in scripture – I believed, and therefore I spoke – we too believe and therefore we too speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn, and put us by his side and you with us. You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God.

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Matthew 20:20-28

The mother of Zebedee’s sons came with her sons to make a request of him, and bowed low; and he said to her, ‘What is it you want?’ She said to him, ‘Promise that these two sons of mine may sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your kingdom.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus answered. ‘Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ ‘Very well,’ he said ‘you shall drink my cup, but as for seats at my right hand and my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted by my Father.’

When the other ten heard this they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that among the pagans the rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

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…whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.

I have been meeting regularly with my 3 unit heads of late, in preparation for my three-week absence in September, when I embark on my Camino. Truly, it has been a trying time at work, with disunity and discord reigning. The vibes have been obvious over the past few weeks and I have had to carefully manage the dynamics of the new team since three new hires came on board from last year. I always predicted that this day would come, when those who have been with me longer would feel a certain way towards those who have just come on board and have yet to ‘prove their worth’.

More and more, I have come to realise why I have been put in this role and what He has in store for me. I tell my staff members that I am there to guide them and to help them become better leaders and better communicators. How I do it truly depends on who I am dealing with. But I encourage every one of them to treat each project/task/day as a learning journey. Not just with me but with all those around them, especially those who have been around for more than two years. I emphasise that none of us is smarter, more knowledgeable or better than the other. Our strength comes from our collective wisdom and the unity that we all need to have.

Hence I open myself to criticism, comments and the opinions of those around me. It is quite a vulnerable position to find myself in sometimes but I believe that it is the only way I can be Christ-like in my approach to leading a motley crew of professionals who each have their own unique stories. No longer am I in charge of a group of young, single, bright-eyed upstarts. I have staff who themselves are parents with responsibilities at home, who have to care for aging parents and who have other personal issues to deal with. At the same time, I am bringing in new staff to help cope with the increasing responsibilities placed upon my team.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus himself taught us that in order to lead, one must be compassionate and merciful in order to win the hearts of those who follow. Indeed, that is what I have been reflecting on as I begin to contemplate who will take on my burden for the three weeks in September that I am gone. I truly am hoping that my 3 colleagues will unite as one in order to take on the challenges ahead. I ask for your prayers, that they may be enlightened and learn what it means to be a servant leader.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for an outpouring of your graces upon all those who are in leadership roles at work, at home and in ministry. Give them a heart filled with mercy, compassion and love so that they may lead from the heart.

Thanksgiving: Lord, we give thanks to You for all the times you have guided us through the rough waters at work, at home and in our parishes.