I am reading “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco and ran across a passage where one character is explaining to another the concept of “beauty.” He says for something to be beautiful three things must be in place: integrity, proportion, and clarity.
It got me to thinking about Beautiful Leadership. Let’s apply these three criteria to leaders.
I don’t know about you but I am disgusted with the lack of integrity we are witnessing today at the highest levels and in every domain. There are so many so-called leaders today who accumulate power and preserve that power at all costs. Their scams, lies, smear campaigns, and duplicity are so obvious to those of us seeing it from outside their own circles, that one is amazed they still have anyone who believes their drivel. Yet people do and they continue to get away with it. This kind of leadership is ugly.
The world is hungry for leaders with integrity: men and women who have “true north” values and who will defend those values and no matter the cost to them. That kind of leadership—and there are some who have it—is beautiful.
We have all seen and heard horror stories of leaders who did not know how to maintain balance in their lives. They will sacrifice their marriage, their children, and their own health in the pursuit of their career. People may applaud and adore them for their business prowess or courageous innovation, but behind that veneer of achievement, they have left behind a trail of brokenness and misery, a trail that is hidden from the public but oh so real to those it destroys. Such leadership is ugly.
Beautiful leaders know how to have boundaries. They do not allow their careers to engulf every aspect of their existence. They have children who adore them and marriages that shout to all who witness them: “This is what love looks like.”
Double-talk: that is what we get from the ugly leader. They speak one thing today and another tomorrow depending on the current narrative they are trying to foist upon the public and depending on the most current threats to their power. The message of such leaders is confusing; it leaves followers scratching their heads wondering what they want or where they are trying to go. They use convoluted speech that takes many twists and turns in its effort to say nothing of substance for which they could be held accountable. Such leadership is ugly.
Beautiful leadership speaks with a firm and clear voice, a consistent voice, a voice that speaks ideas and visions that match the leader’s actions. Ugly leaders despise such leaders for their lack of “nuance.” But the people sense the beauty in such clarity.
Integrity, proportion, and clarity: these are the marks of beauty and they are the essential qualities that make leadership beautiful. Such leaders, when you find them, need our support. They are fighting an uphill battle in an ugly world, a world that not only tolerates ugly leaders but cheers them on.
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.