Connecting to the Soul of Your Community
Wise words for leaders from Henri Nouwen about connecting to the soul of a community...
The great illusion of leadership is to think that man can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there. Our lives are filled with examples which tell us that leadership asks for understanding and understanding requires sharing. So long as we define leadership in terms of preventing or establishing precedents, or in terms of being responsible for some kind of "general good," we have forgotten that no God can save us except a suffering God, and that no man can lead his people except the one who is crushed by its sins.
Personal concern means making Mr. Harrison the only one who counts, the one for whom I am willing to forget my many other obligations, my scheduled appointments and long-prepared meetings, not because they are not important but because they lose their urgency in the face of Mr. Harrison's agony. Personal concern makes it possible to experience that going after the "lost sheep" is really a service to those who were left alone.
Many will put their trust in him who went all the way, out of concern, for just one of them. The remark, "He really cares for us" is often illustrated by stories which show that forgetting the many for the one is a sign of true leadership...
All this suggests that when one has the courage to enter where life is experienced as most unique and most private, one touches the soul of the community. The one who has spent many hours trying to understand, feel, and clarify the alienation and confusion of one of his/her fellows might might well be the best equipped to speak to the needs of many, because all people are one at the well-spring of pain and joy.
~From The Wounded Healer