CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 May 2017

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A leader in our Church

AN OLD ADAGE says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” But for a leader in any organisation, one of the challenges is discerning when things are broken and taking steps to address them.

Contrary to much media huff and puff prior to the selection of Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as the new chief executive in Hong Kong, a change at the top is in itself not enough.

The outgoing Leung Chun-ying endured many calls to step down, but just replacing him with even a remote look-alike will achieve little, unless the new person in the job is prepared to act in a disquieting or even disruptive manner.

Australian commentator, John Menadue, goes as far as calling it creating disequilibrium, a medical term used in describing the causes of dizziness or in economic language, a time of change which puts the economy out of kilter.

Amid the constant calls for harmony and disregard for social and spiritual ambitions from its far off masters-in-chief, it is difficult for Hong Kong to imagine a chief executive creating disequilibrium, leaving the city with the prospect of facing the status quo with all its social, political and economic tensions for the next five years. Change does not come out of comfort zones.

Presidents, prime ministers, chief executives and bishops all have defined roles. As managers, they are responsible for ceremony and dealing with complexity while maintaining equilibrium. But this does not a leader make.

Leadership involves a set of activities in which the group is persuaded to make difficult, but necessary changes. It is about asking hard questions and ferreting after them until a resolution is found.

Leadership is not to be confused with charisma, as charismatic people can be unpredictable and even mad. It is certainly not the strongly authoritarian either, as authority figures want the group to be comfortable, making true leadership at any level a difficult task.

Pope Francis is not a charismatic figure, nor is he authoritarian—leaving him loved by many but bitterly despised by strong figures that are not prepared to follow him outside of their comfort zones. But he is a leader in the true sense of the word.

He is continually asking the hard questions about the deep-seated problems in the Church, some of which involve its most powerful group, the clergy at all rungs of the ladder.

Consequently we have the please explain notice served on him by five powerful cardinals. But it also explains his refusal to answer them, as calming choppy waters is not his brief and nor is dictating the answer to the riddles he proposes, as he knows that is not the way in which any worthwhile change can be generated.

Apart from that, as a strong leader, Pope Francis admits that he does not have all the answers, but he does have trust in his flock that with sufficient stirring and patience, change for the better will emerge and in a manner that the people can truly say, “We did it!”

But leadership in any group is not confined to any defined positions and Pope Francis is a patient man with a determination to listen to and give rein to those who create disequilibrium at any level. It is to be hoped the chief executive will do the same. JiM