5 Leadership Lessons from the Headlines of 2013

1.  There is a time to speak


While the jury is still out (figuratively and literally) on Edward Snowden’s decision to make public so many American secrets, the leadership lesson remains: Have the courage to act on conviction even in the face of grave consequence.

I am not well enough informed to sort out the ethical nuances of the Snowden case, but thanks to good ole Ed, I am otherwise well informed indeed.


2.  There is a time to mourn

Obama MandelaWithin the celebratory mood of the stadium hosting the Nelson Mandela memorial, US President Obama–perhaps understandably–got caught up in the moment, posed for a selfie or two, and clearly enjoyed those in his company.  Normally, I’m not one to comment on celebrity–let alone blog about it–but in that moment, President Obama forgot his leadership-role and reveled in his perhaps-more-comfortable celebrity-role.  While I fully understand that the event was a memorial with celebratory intentions and NOT a funeral, I wonder if the president regrets his actions.

I further wondered at the time: “WWMD?”

What Would Mandela Do?  Somehow, I don’t see Mandela posing for a selfie at the memorial of a fellow world leader, and such is the leadership lesson I took away from this news item:  The preciousness of life is meant to be celebrated, and its loss mourned–with simple dignity. 

3.  There is a time to dance

Of course a reference to Miley Cyrus and twerking is so compelling at this prompt, but I shall refrain from further discussion of the act itself.  Indeed, that is the leadership lesson from this news event: Know when NOT to do something–even at the cost of fame and in the face of opportunity.  I have often witnessed leaders and service-organizations adopt practices and offer “services” simply because they were the popular and financially-lucrative things to do–not because they were in the best interest of clients, patients or staff–thereby sacrificing the future and integrity of the organization at the altar of temporal satisfaction.

4.  There is a time to cast away stones

Vatican Benedict XVIThis lesson I credit to Pope Francis AND to Pope Emeritus Benedict.

They both boldly cast away the stones–and arbitrary confines–of tradition.  True leadership sees beyond the practice of ritual, and seeks to root action in a righteousness that may have been lost along the way, or that may be emerging anew and afresh.

The “new wine in old wine skins” parable is of great value in this consideration.  When Christ was challenged for having his disciples depart from seemingly timeless practices, He ushered in this thinking of a progression beyond ritual and into a deeper, more intimate passion at this intersection of humanity and spirituality.  (This paragraph is from an earlier blog post.  Read it here.)

5.  There is a time to gather stones together

As with most years, 2013 seemed to be filled with natural disasters and with the tragedy of human aggression upon others.  From tidal-waves to torment, from earthquakes to execution, and from blizzards to horrific bombings, many forces have made great attempts to separate us.

But thankfully, in most cases, we have rallied together–gathered together–and stood together–to allow our collective beauty and purpose to inform action, and to heal.  And that is leadership lesson number 5.


Perhaps you have noted that the construction of my arguments has been informed by verses from Ecclesiastes 3.  See more of the citation here.

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