Have those two adages – Might Makes Right and the Many Serve the Few – gotten inside your head?
You might have wondered, why the emphasis on those two maxims in a course about leadership; they're political – about power?
First – they refer to social constructs, and we are social creatures. Leadership is not a solo undertaking.
Second – far too many people – especially people in positions of authority – associate leadership with power. People who believe leadership is about wielding power tend to rely on carrots and sticks to manipulate and control people. That person in a position of authority influences others to get what they – the leader – wants.
They, mistakenly, call that leadership.
Leadership is not about power; power to manipulate or control.
Leadership is about inspiring people…
But let's go on with our story.
Jeff said goodbye to his friends and helped close up the bar and grill; his tribe would be back together again in five weeks.
Saturday morning, he was up and on the road by ten for the two-hour drive home to Lorain, Ohio – a town of sixty-four thousand along the shore of Lake Erie. Lorain, once a manufacturing hub, has suffered like much of the rust belt in the last few decades.
Jeff couldn't stop thinking about the axioms, Might Makes Right, and The Many Serve the Few. While he saw the obvious truth, he didn't want to believe those dictates were absolute truth.
After Jeff's father had died fighting a fire when Jeff was ten, Jeff's mother's father, Papa, bought, what is now the family house and divided it into two units. One for Papa, and one for Jeff's family consisting of Jeff's mother Lizzie and his sister Jess, and their cat Gracie. Papa had lived above the bakery and café he started fifty-five years before. That was the family business Jeff worked in since he was eight years old.
Arriving home, Jeff was met by his sister, and the two were soon joined by their mom. They ate lunch together and caught up. Papa was not able to join them as he was at the café, preparing for an evening event. It was Wexler's sixtieth wedding anniversary. The Wexler's were Papa's oldest and dearest friends. By late afternoon the entire family was at the café, busy getting ready for the celebration.
That evening, as guests arrived, Jeff felt at home amongst a loving extended family. He considered the circumstance there, at the anniversary celebration, in comparison to what Jose had stated the night before.
Circulating throughout the gathering, Jeff watched old friends and family members interact and marveled at the genuine respect, admiration, and affection freely expressed. Jeff realized strong bonds and heartfelt relationships were rare and exceptional indeed. No one in attendance jockeyed for status or dominance. Everyone celebrated, remembered, and rejoiced. New acquaintances became friends, while old friends embraced, reflected on past adventures, and recounted tales of mishap, mischief, and merriment. Laughter echoed throughout the café; family welcoming family.
This affectionate sentiment stood in contrast from José's declaration that might – power – drives people. Jeff was energized to see and feel the unpretentious esteem and sincere caring – the love – animating that room. People who cared about one another and who cared about their community could live by another dictum, a better, more powerful dictum. Jeff knew he had to dig deeper.
By ten that evening, festivities wound down. Jeff helped clean up, then joined Papa for the ride home; the two treasured time together.
That next morning, Sunday morning Jeff, Jess, and Lizzie collected Papa on their way to the eight-thirty mass at Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish; Saint Frances Cabrini is the patron saint of immigrants. Papa knew he belonged at that parish as he had immigrated to America in 1945 at the age of nine.
Father Joseph, the parish priest, an engaging, enthusiastic preacher, wove together a particularly powerful sermon that morning.
Father Joseph had served in the Army before answering the call to become a priest. After infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in late 1995, he deployed with the initial U.S. forces as part of the peacekeeping mission in the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
There competing ethnic hatred turned a civil war into a war that was anything but.
Father Joseph had spoken to an old friend just this week. That friend had been the interpreter he had worked with. The two had stayed in touch.
In the Bosnian Wars, as they were known, ethnicity undergirded by contrived religious elements drove both sides in the conflict to commit heinous, barbarous acts.
The truth behind the smokescreen of justifications for murder and mayhem, hatred and animosity, were power-plays to establish dominance and gain control.
Jeff thought to himself, here's that theme again.
The hatred and violence in the former Yugoslavia unleashed men's worst passions. However, these days, thirty years after hostilities began – when selfish men committed brazen, thoughtless, and horrific acts – God is moving hearts to change. Father Joseph's interpreter friend shared with him that a miracle of healing was happening.
Veterans of the Bosnia Wars, men who faced widespread censure, not unlike the blame cast on veterans returning from Vietnam here in the United States, were beginning to reach out and heal old wounds. Long-suffering victims of war, hatred, and ambition are now reaching out for consolation, reconciliation, and forgiveness.
Change is possible. A better way is possible. It only depends on what we choose.
Have faith; rejoice!
That's just what Jeff needed to hear.
At the conclusion of mass, after socializing with the congregation, Jeff and his family made their way home to prepare for brunch. Lizzie had established a long-running tradition of inviting a neighbor family over for Sunday brunch – a different neighbor each week.
The Hargraves arrived right on time.
After brunch, Papa made his way around the room, showing each person genuine caring and concern before he departed.
He turned to Jeff as he walked out the door and asked, "Cribbage at four?"
Jeff responded, "You bet, Papa. I'm ready for you today.
Papa smiled. "We'll see."
And I'll see you in lesson three.