"Tend the flock of God in your midst, overseeing not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock." 1Pt 5: 2-3
Learning to be a Christian leader, especially if it is something to which you were elected or appointed, is difficult and confusing. Too often leaders think they rule by divine right, deep intelligence or superior insight. In fact, while we hope our leaders are gifted, their primary call is to be servants, people who think first about the people they are called to lead, not their own power or responsibility.
Christian leadership is also confusing because there are very few models or examples to follow, although it is clear that Pope Francis is trying to change what we expect from church leaders. Committed to building a "a church that is poor and for the poor," Francis is asking all Christians, but especially its leaders, to re-imagine their roles and goals. When leaders live more simply, as Francis is trying to do personally, they become more approachable and more compelling. We want to listen to them because of their integrity, not just their office.
More important, the personal integrity and simplicity of life of those called to leadership lays the ground for an authentic conversation between all trying to live their Baptismal promises which is not based in roles or titles but in the shared desire to announce the Good News. When our leaders our approachable, listen and are willing to seek solutions to common problems through dialogue, they not only model Gospel values, they invite others to do the same.
Today, listen to someone you might easily ignore.
What do you want our leaders to be?