Today I found myself in Canada, as is usual for a Tuesday, and I was discoursing amidst a group of elderly people about leadership–not that Nachmu was lecturing them (may it never be!), but, in the course of the conversation, I had asked them if they had ever met a leader who would have been considered meek. I was thinking to explore the nature of things, namely that leaders are generally not meek, but that an extraordinary leader might be extraordinarily good because he or she became a leader in spite of his predilection to wilt under the hot lights.
What meek and mild-mannered person would wish to become a leader, entering into an office which, by its nature, is rough-and-tumble? A good leader is generally hated at all times by something approaching a third of those led; the other third love (the third third don’t care). Leadership is for those who are willing to appear, and even on occasion be, unjust at times, which is a test of strength of character. What meek person would wish to become a leader?
Never would a meek person wish to become a leader, but he might become a leader because he was pressed into it.
I’ve seen this phenomenon on regular occasion all my life. A well-attended organization is at a loss to find a suitable leader, so those in attendance turn to someone who is sitting quietly in the corner, offering very little beyond a vote, never an opinion. To an outsider, someone who has not proffered an opinion publicly on a matter is, by default, unsuitable to be a leader of a well-attended, energetic organization. To an insider, under the correct conditions, this person is ideal. Within a term, that person is too shattered to be called a person anymore, and the organization is seeking another leader.
Well, why is there a vacancy of leadership in the first place? Where are those who try to persuade? Debate is the healthy forum for the working out of love and hate, and a good leader creates an anvil for the organization to hammer out the heat to create tools for growth. On regular occasion, however, the leader becomes the anvil. That’s not good. And the next leader becomes the hammer. That’s not good, either. After a while, an organization runs short of hammers and anvils, and all we have is fire.
Who will go into the fire for us? For within the fire is our hope for growth! Someone, anyone, must enter into the fire to fetch for us our hopes.
I remember one case in particular: the organization had run through its supply of money, but it was still driven by past dreams of greatness which it had yet to achieve; therefore, the members of the organization created a handful of accounting tricks to cover their deprivations. Treasurer after treasurer tried to bring sense to the accounting, but they could not, and when they brought “Reason!” to the meetings, they were regularly shouted down.
Finally, they tied a meek man to a heavy duty dolly, Hannibal Lecter-style, and made him treasurer. He did everything he was told. He literally could not add and subtract; he did not know basic math facts such as 7+7=14. Unfortunately, 7+7=$2100 only so often per month per year before the gas is shut off. Recriminations, as they say, flew. The meek one also flew, voluntarily abdicating his beloved organization, a place he called home, a fortress from his own meekness, surrounded by those he thought strong.
One elderly lady, after thinking about my question while I brought to my own mind a certain high school principal and another lady brought to conversation a certain prestigious medical doctor, shouted, “King George the Sixth was meek! That’s why he died so young. He grew up in the shadow of his brother. His brother constantly bullied him, and he couldn’t adjust to being King, so he died young.”
She continued, “I remember the day after he died, there was in the paper a cartoon, in the editorial section, a picture of a gate. There was a picture of a gate, and he was walking. The gate was open so he could–”
And her voice caught. She could speak no more. Tears flooded into her eyes.