Moore than 20 years ago, a fellow Social Worker colleague friend and I signed up to take a Clinical Supervision course at a major university. Completion of the course allowed us to become approved Social Work Supervisors here in Texas.
This was when online learning was just starting to emerge. We paid our tuition, did our readings and journal entries, and waited each Friday for our facilitator to join us online.
The first Friday afternoon, we were online on time and there was no facilitator. We talked about the readings and the assignments ourselves. The next Friday we met again at the prescribed time and again there was no facilitator.
We both thought we’ll give it one more try. So, the following Friday we met again at the prescribed time and again still no facilitator.
Since we really needed this class to become approved supervisors, we spent the rest of the semester meeting together discussing readings, writing papers.
When the end of the semester arrived, we even arranged to take the final exam by proxy.
Never once during the semester were we contacted by the facilitator. I remember that at the end of the course I didn’t submit a very flattering evaluation for the course. I think I wrote that it was probably the worst educational experience in my life.
A year later I went to a continuing education event at the major university and I ran into the absent facilitator. They totally snubbed me and I laughed, “Well, I guess they realized I didn’t think their course was great.”
Leadership and structure are terribly important to the well-being and operational functioning of any organization. This course would have been much better had the facilitator bothered to show up at the designated time if the facilitator had chosen to care.
Bottom line is leadership matters; it counts in education, is business, in politics and in ministry.
Years ago, I knew a Senior Command Navy Chaplain. He was a Captain 0-6 and he was a tremendous man and a great leader.
Whenever any of the Chaplains, under his supervision, were set to deploy, especially for six-month sea duty tours; he would go down on the pier with the Chaplain’s family to watch the ship depart.
Same thing six months later, when the ship would return, the Chaplain was there on the dock with the deployed Chaplain’s family welcoming that Chaplain back home.
What was even more remarkable, however, was that this Chaplain would visit the deployed Chaplain’s family weekly during the deployment in order to make sure that things would be as good as possible on the home front. If any needs came up, that Chaplain would make sure that the needs of the deployed Chaplain would be met.
Needless to say, this Chaplain inspired great admiration in his subordinates. Many Chaplains lobbied hard to work for him because they knew he was a great leader and that their needs would be met.
What happens is that leadership does not come from a predictable source, but rather it emerges from unlikely origins.
General Stanley McChrystal has observed:
“As with religion, leadership offers value by crafting a narrative that helps make sense of the world around us, even when it elude our comprehension. Leadership provides a framework for assigning causality when things go well, and equally a way to assign blame when things go otherwise. And as with romance, leadership holds our attention and captures our imagination, stirring feelings that we don’t always Understand.” (Leaders: Myth And Reality. Penguin Books, 2018, P. 8 ).
The one who would be normally over looked can become the leader of the nation.
Ideally, we look to leaders to inspire us, to make sound decisions, to offer humility and to not view themselves as the “only , essential, unique” experts regarding the decision making process. When leaders can accept accountability and admit that they were wrong, the wisdom of their character and commitment to serve others shines through.
When you experience real effective, transformative leadership, the experience stays with you and it becomes memorable.
The facilitator of the online Clinical Supervision class didn’t show for the students.
The Command Chaplain showed up for his Chaplain and family.
May we be the ones who can show up for others and for ourselves.
May it be so.
Rev. Peter E. Bauer is a United Church of Christ minister. He is the Interim Minister for First Christian Church in Lockhart and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and Medium.Com.