First things First: This past Sunday, June 19, marked Juneteenth, commemorating June 19, 1865, the day enslaved people in Texas were informed of their freedom – 2-1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. Observing this day is vital because it reminds us that work still needs to be done to eliminate inequalities and injustices in our communities.
Along with most of you, I imagine, I’ve been reflecting on much of the news. From the House committee investigative hearings regarding the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol (on a side note: The AP recently published an article on the thirst for power, comparing Jan 6 with Watergate, which sent my thoughts along this path; worth reading), to Putin’s actions in Ukraine. Or even the more mundane madness of a Minnesota legislative session that ends without committing the billions of unspent surplus. I’ve been thinking about the nature of power. Where is the learning for us?
This phrase from 19th-century historian Lord Acton, “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is a warning against the negative effects of power. The true threat, for each of us, is that increased power threatens to corrupt a person, lessening our morality. Leadership, at its core, is all about power and influence. That’s why, to my mind, the concept of “servant leadership” is so pivotal.
For most of us, we start, innocently enough, from a place of striving to do good. And yet somewhere, somehow, along the way we start abusing the privilege of leadership. Ever so subtly at first. No matter how large or small our domain, when we have authority over it we are vulnerable to abuse of that authority.
So I’ve been doing some reading: how can I avoid being corrupted by power? The Keller Institute wrote a great piece on how to “Escape the Corruption of Power”:
It’s challenging to be both great and good. That said, we can be encouraged; self-awareness and diligence – and courage - can be a protection. And we can channel Mother Teresa who, when asked about the great things she did, assured us that “none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”
See you in the trenches.
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