Thinking about leadership and legacies. Thinking about the different approaches to both. When someone is in a position of leadership or authority, s/he can approach the role from a position of scarcity or abundance.
Scarcity says: I am worried about me and mine
Abundance says: I am thinking about a community, a whole, a big picture
When you go into a role with an agenda that centers around yourself, you make certain choices. People who depend on you often get lost because of these choices. This cannot be eradicated, even when leading from abundance, but it can be greatly lessened. Historically, high powered positions have often been approached from a standpoint of scarcity. But I saw abundance last week and I can’t get it out of my mind.
Many who voted for Obama in his first race assumed that he would use his position of power to fix racism in America. Many were disappointed, disillusioned even, when he didn’t. Why didn’t he push this agenda? After his impassioned candor about the issue during his eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, it’s clear that President Obama cares deeply about the violent racial divide in America and the history behind it. He didn’t, as suggested in an article I read, change “in days”.
Obama spoke knowingly about grace in his eulogy. He is a man of wisdom. A man of vision. He is on his way to leaving a legacy that will positively affect an entire country. And it’s because he approached his role from a place of abundance.
I can only imagine why certain people would resist voting for a non-Caucasian president. Or a non-male president. Or non-heterosexual president. Or… It’s fear, yes. But of what? Fear that the personal agenda of those leaders would seriously conflict what is already in place? Fear of upheaval. Chaos. The unknown other side where personal agendas may include oppressing groups that have not been oppressed. And a leadership agenda that doesn’t include oppression at all is a completely different universe for many people.
After watching Obama’s passion last week, I wondered what would have happened if he had decided to push his personal beliefs throughout his presidency instead of remaining neutral. I imagine it would have been setting a poor example for future “different” presidents. I imagine that he was well aware of the precedents he has been setting, not only as the first black president in USA, but also as the first non-Caucasian president. If he forced his personal passions down the throats of people uncomfortable with change, it would have given those people a bad taste for change. It would have given them a reason to justify shutting down future change.
Obama could have chosen to remain neutral at this funeral. But I think, instead of becoming overwhelmed by tragedy that hit closer to home than any other (I think they all hit home, and I’ve seen evidence of this in facial expressions and body language during prior speeches in response to tragedy), Obama is thinking of what comes next. Without the heavy role of President on his shoulders, the weight of an entire nation filled with many races, religions, cultures, etc. each with its own nuanced hardships and benefits, he can focus on issues that deeply matter to him.