Testing leadership

MY friends, this coronavirus pandemic has challenged and tested not only our faith, health, and our nation’s strength but one’s leadership.

When I talk about leadership, I don’t just mean the leadership in government.  I also refer to leadership is families, schools, churches, businesses, and personal lives.
This trying time has challenged the usual ways we govern, do business, study, meet,  worship, live as a family, and serve others. It has challenged us to think outside the box and to face courageously the “new norms” that have emerged out of this pandemic.

Most of all, it has challenged us to sacrifice one’s needs for the sake of others.
This pandemic has reminded us that self-sacrifice, courage, presence, the ability to listen and to collaborate are the marks of a true leader.

The image of The Good Shepherd captures these marks of authentic leadership. The true shepherd is one who walks ahead of his sheep, and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice. He does not climb over elsewhere but enters through the gate to meet their needs. He dives in their midst to take care of each of them and lead everyone to safety.

A true leader then leads his people to the truth and not lie to them. He is accountable to them and their needs. He is present to them, listens to them, and provides for their wants. As Pope Francis says, “He smells like the sheep.”

A leader possesses courage, an attribute that is most needed nowadays to deal with the troubles and uncertainties of life. Hence, he needs to walk bravely ahead of his people, armed with compassion, understanding, and wisdom.

We look at our lives and examine if we do possess these attributes of a true leader.
Let me then ask you the following questions for your reflection this week.

First, how are you leading yourself? Are you taking care of your physical, spiritual, and emotional health? Are you cultivating good habits of prayer, exercise, and eating, listening, and soulful conversations? These take sacrifices too, and they are essential, for as the old cliché says, we cannot take care of others if we do not know how to take care of ourselves.

Second, how are you leading others? How are you encouraging them and giving them hope in these trying times? How are you modeling courage, faith, and patience to our children? It is time to show our real concern and care for them. It is the time not to wallow in fear but to show your strength and ability to withstand any crisis.

Third, how are you collaborating with the leaders of our government and nation? It’s not easy to isolate ourselves for a long time, to follow orders not to congregate, and to cover our mouth and nose with a mask. But if these are what the experts and our local leaders ask us to do to mitigate the spread of this virus, then we’ll have to collaborate with them.

Fourth, as leaders in the different sectors of the society, including the church, how are you demonstrating creativity, proactivity, wisdom, boldness, and tenacity during these difficult times?

Indeed, the way we do business, lead government, schools, and the church will be different now. We’re coming up with new norms of protecting everyone’s health and assuring the education of our young people. Even the church has to deal with changes in the ministries of worship, evangelization, and teaching. Are you ready to face this challenge? Are you learning from other people’s creativity to deal with changes and to find new ways of working and serving one another?

Finally, who is the person that you turn to the most to gain strength, courage, and peace? Do you turn to Jesus—the Good Shepherd? Do you allow him to hold and caress you when you become afraid, anxious, and doubtful?

Let’s keep in mind the image of the Good Shepherd as we face another COVID-19 week. Let’s turn to him for courage and strength!

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.

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