The above is, according to Rudyard Kipling “the motto of all the mongoose family”. As my Dad pointed out in his response to an earlier post on leadership, sitting in one’s ivory tower pontificating about the needs of and solutions for everyone ‘out there’ is not going to produce the best results; you have to go and see for yourself.
He used, as his example, Lord Shaftesbury, who was able to speak compellingly about the dangers and hardships faced by, for instance, young children working in textile factories, because he had been there and seen it for himself. No-one could write-off his descriptions as hearsay or misunderstanding; they had only to adjudicate on their importance, not on their veracity. Thus Shaftesbury gained not only the intellectual upper hand in the debate, but the affection and emotional support of the workers on the ground – this latter being of great comfort to a man who was not winning any friends in Parliament by arguing for legislation which would seriously affect many of their incomes.
Giuliani also advocates leaders seeing first hand the people they are leading, the situations those people live and work in day-to-day and – especially for the Mayor of a big city, but useful for others, too – being on the scene for the moments of greatest emotional need. For him, this involved going to the weddings and funerals of as many of his friends, colleagues and acquaintances as possible, and visiting the scenes of major accidents and tragedies within New York City immediately he was informed of them.
We’re all cynical enough that it likely crosses our mind that he did this more to enhance his own re-election prospects than out of true compassion for the people of his city, but the fact remains that, as with the then King and Queen’s visit to the blitzed East End during WWII, having your leaders walk among you at your time of need is a great comfort. Knowing that they genuinely know where you are and consider you to be a higher priority than whatever was on your schedule for that day speaks volumes.
This, after all, was what Jesus did. He knew our situation better than we did from his vantage point in heaven, yet he chose to give up his comfort and the worship that was due him to come and walk among us, knowing that this very fact would speak volumes to us. He really does understand everything that we face every day, because he’s been here and seen it for himself.
‘Book learning’ is a good thing. Thinking and praying things through is another; but the trilogy needs to be completed by personal experience or at least the evidence of your own eyes (I’m not suggesting, for example, that the best way to lead drug addicts out of their bondage is to first spend time taking drugs with them – meeting them and knowing them is better than actually sharing their experiences!).
This involves sacrifice. It takes time and energy to go out to the ‘highways and byways’ and see people’s troubles for yourself. You may get dirty, and may even put yourself at personal risk, as Giuliani did, rushing to the still-burning Twin Towers on 9/11, or as Shaftesbury did ‘coughing the dust’ of the factories and walking the slum-alleys of London. Authority, though, follows that sacrifice. Respect is not given lightly these days – if it ever was. It must be earned, and demonstrating that you care enough to learn the truth regardless of the cost, is a sure-fire way to earn it.
I am currently actively looking for ways to get out into the community and ‘go and find out’ for myself. Feel free to contact me if you don’t see evidence of my action soon!