Wilberforce: Agent of Change

“It is not revolutions and upheavals that clear the road to new and better days but… someone’s soul, inspired and ablaze” (Pasternak in Holladay, 1999). Such inspired leaders are rare, but memorable in the annals of history. Komives (2016) introduces the concept of a ‘change agent’ who “serves as a catalyst for a group, stirring people up [for] positive change” (p. 398). These leaders either create or inherit a change potential and have the ability and power to lead that change effectively. The internal motivation of someone who is ‘inspired and ablaze’ with passion can affect change in the most stubborn of situations.

“It is not revolutions and upheavals that clear the road to new and better days but… someone’s soul, inspired and ablaze.”

William Wilberforce is a wonderful example of a truly inspired soul, determined to complete the tasks he saw laid out for him by God. We are all familiar with his crucial role in leading the charge toward the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire, but few of us really know his whole story and what depth of character he exhibited in every area of his life. As was oft repeated in class, the ability to create real change has the prerequisite of first changing and developing one’s self. Continue reading “Wilberforce: Agent of Change”

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What You Want

“No one is afraid of Caesar himself, but he is afraid of death, exile, loss of property, prison, disfranchisement. Nor does anyone love Caesar himself, unless in some way Caesar is a person of great merit; but we love wealth, a tribuneship, a praetorship, a consulship. When we love and hate and fear these things, it needs must be that those who control them are masters over us” (Epictetus in Burns, 2007, p. 196).

Pascal (in Burns, 2007) defined power as “the possession of things that men want.” Whether that be resources, notoriety, or freedom from punishment, whoever holds these objects of desire holds power over those who want them. A ruler might have power to coerce subjects to do his will because he has control over the satisfaction of their physical needs, but there is a limit to the power of coercion. Followers have their own set of wants and needs that, when they go unfulfilled by their leadership, cause a conflict of resources and motivate people to protest.

In a normal leader-follower relationship, both sides have their own motivations and resources which balance each other out

Continue reading “What You Want”

As Iron Sharpens Iron

During the latter half of the 18th century, while the American colonies were vying for independence from the crown, England was also working on their governmental structure. Specifically, the virtues of a two-party system. England was wary at first of any sort of opposition to the status-quo, desiring stability over the right to oppose. Then Lord Bolingbroke and Edmond Burke came onto the scene and touted the benefits of opposing parties. Eventually, the political atmosphere reached a climax that allowed the parties to exist. (Burns, 2007)

When considering how to relate this tidbit from history to my major area of study (accounting), I thought of the connection between governmental and managerial leadership changes. In business as well as in politics, the ideas in power naturally don’t want to be challenged. This could be a company policy that some of the leadership views as unjust, or maybe a questionable business deal that isn’t being questioned. The right to oppose the status quo is essential to improving said status. It takes a leader willing to stick their neck out and challenge the institutional leadership in order to make a change for the better.

The Bible encourages challenge on a personal level when it teaches that “iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). When driven by moral values and elevated principles, friendly opposition between peers will refine each to be the best that they can be (Burns, 2007).

In leadership roles, it is wise to question the norms. Good policies will only be purified from the interrogation while bad policies will be ‘perplexed’ (Burns, 2007, p. 124).


References

Burns, James MacGregor (2007-12-01). Transforming Leadership (p. 125). Grove/Atlantic, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

When Food Reigns

Throughout history, access to food has been the driving force behind wars and revolutions. It is the primary and most urgent requirement of life. It was to be expected that before a farmer even harvested all his crop, either kings’ men or marauders would steal and plunder it away. Life consisted of subsisting off of whatever the land could provide or the  income could afford. “In the time of the [Reign of] Terror, hunger bred fear, not only about the next day’s food but the risk of nighttime theft, or the next day’s arrest— and possibly execution-— for hoarding” (Burns, 2007, p. 106).

For most of us today, this hand-to-mouth way of living is blessedly unfamiliar. Continue reading “When Food Reigns”

That Thing People Do…

I mean the act of “thinking of others.” We all do it. Walk past a person on the street who is shivering and hungry and think “Oh poor soul, who’s going to feed them?” Or, for the people who never walk on streets like that, when your friend has an upcoming birthday and you think “Ah, they would love this extravagant gift!” but when the special day comes, you realize that you haven’t left yourself time to make that thought a reality and they end up getting a gift card–if you have time to get to the store. It’s all forgiven, though, because it’s the thought that counts!

Good King Louis XVI also lived by that philosophy, just wanting to “do well by his people” (Burns, 2007, p. 100). History shows how that thought counted… In 1789, the 35th year of his reign, the bloody French Revolution began. I suppose three and a half decades of hierarchical privilege wasn’t long enough for him to make that thought a reality for his people. Continue reading “That Thing People Do…”

Virtuous Leadership

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that once a person is in a committed leadership position, the idea of transferring that power to an adversary, let alone a faithful disciple, is not pleasant. Yet we witness such peaceful transferences of power in America at every level of government. For centuries with rare exceptions, rulers have chosen to die before giving up power. What makes America so different?

It started with the example of a virtuous leader—George Washington. He had every opportunity to take advantage of this new republic and become its king. They offered the chance on a silver platter! Yet he refused on principle and it has influenced America’s leaders every generation since.

Washington acknowledged Continue reading “Virtuous Leadership”

Change Begins With Us

The story of Ferdinand de Lesseps was an inspiring read. The completion of the Suez canal began with his vision to literally change the world. Yet even his great passion for the project could not alone support the change he sought. First, he petitioned the government of England to back his venture. When that failed, he attempted to stir the emotions of society and foster popular support. When that failed, he struck out on his own and, with the blessing of an Egyptian official, sold shares to the public to fund the canal (Burns, 2003).

“Pulsifer shares the story of a wise monk who said:

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could have indeed changed the world (Komives, 2012, p.105).”

This monk recognized the impossibility for the average person to change the world without first Continue reading “Change Begins With Us”

What History Teaches Us

This week’s reading discussed Queen Elizabeth as a historical example of leadership. The question that Burns (2003) posed was “Was she more the maker of history or a product of it” (p. 39)? He cited the circumstances surrounding her reign, such as religious divisions, mistrust in a female ruler, and incessant plots against her life, as strong influences in her style of leadership.When most monarchs might try to restore order through strict rule as her sister Mary did by promoting radical Catholicism, Elizabeth chose to focus on keeping the throne stable to offer a “still center” between whatever other issues might divide her countrymen (Burns, 2003, p. 40). “Stability was to be guarded at the expense of other values, such as liberty and justice” (Burns, 2003, p. 41).

When comparing this ideology to my business major, Continue reading “What History Teaches Us”

What Makes a Leader?

It’s an age-old question: Was Hitler a leader?

Under the broad definition of a leader as ‘someone with followers,’ I answered yes. For better or for worse, people followed him. James Burns (2003) would argue differently–that he was a ruler rather than a leader; that people obeyed his orders, but they did not necessarily follow his vision. On this, we disagree. Continue reading “What Makes a Leader?”