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Leadership Fails and What to Do

Leadership Fails and What to Do Leaders have two ways of acquiring the knowledge and experience they need to function in their organizations: success and failure. That’s it. A leader learns something when an idea or plan succeeds and its purpose is accomplished or a problem resolved. When a nascent idea, born of intuition or insight, evolves into a sophisticated strategy and resources can be allocated and deployed, a positive outcome will assure an accumulation of new knowledge and experience that will serve the leader and the organization well into the future. When a seemingly good idea or plan goes awry and fails to achieve its intended purpose, when intrusions of an unexpected sort intervene to divert the energy and resolve needed to bring a project to completion, a leader learns something here too—if the leader will take the time with others to discern and assess the reasons that contributed to the failure. Learning from successes and failures is difficult work. In fact, such learnin…

Changing Church

“The only thing that is constant is change; nothing endures but change.” So wrote the Greek philosopher Heraclitus in the sixth-century bce. Supposing him to be correct in this observation, I find it strange indeed that so much of our outlook and activity seems to be premised on the permanence of things, as though the way things are at present has always been the case and can be expected to endure indefinitely. If Heraclitus is right, it is odd indeed that we should expend remarkable energy in preserving what is.
I thought of Heraclitus’s comment when I found myself seated among a group of friends one recent morning, engaged in delightful conversation on matters both trivial and profound. I listened carefully as the conversation turned to how difficult it is for the church to change. I must say, I was fully awake at that point, my attention focused and undivided.
“Why is it so hard to get the church to change?” one of the interlocutors asked, expressing both a thinly veiled critique of …

State-Sanctioned Sadism, Part II

On a warm Alabama summer’s evening on July 15, 1995, Domineque Ray and Marcus Owden went looking for fifteen-year-old Tiffany Harville with one thought in mind: have sex with her. Owden did not know the young teenager, but Ray did. They agreed that they would ask her for sex first, but if she refused, they would take it. They drove to her home in Selma and picked her up before driving to Sardis, a community just under nine miles from her home. There they raped and brutally murdered her, taking the $6 she had in her purse, and leaving her body in a cotton field adjacent to the highway. After a number of years during which the crime was unsolved, Owden came forward and confessed his part in the crime and implicated Ray. Owden pled guilty, and was sentenced to life, but Ray went to trial and on July 29, 1999—four years after the crime was committed—Ray was found guilty of robbery, rape, and murder. By a vote of eleven to one, the jury recommended a sentence of death, which the trial judge …

State-Sanctioned Sadism

You’ve probably never heard of Dominique Hakim Marcelle Ray, at least not until a few weeks ago when his name broke into the national news. Ray was incarcerated on death row at Alabama’s Holman Correctional Facility for the 1995 rape, robbery, and murder of fifteen-year-old Tiffany Harville. On November 6, 2018, all appeals having been exhausted, the State of Alabama set the date of Ray’s execution for February 7, 2019. That day came, and Ray was executed by lethal injection. There are two things about Ray’s story that deeply disturb me. First, I am unable to comprehend how the activity in the Holman execution chamber after Ray was ushered in, including the final moments following the release of the lethal cocktail of drugs into his body, was not an ultimate abridgement of his religious freedom. It turns out that there is a staff Christian chaplain on the payroll at the prison, and this member of the clergy is a “member of the execution team.” The prison’s policy is to have the chaplain…

Sangfroid and Schadenfreude

During the last couple of years, I have been struggling to maintain my sangfroid. If you are not familiar with this term, it refers to the presence of mind and composure one maintains in the face of danger or in trying circumstances. We best not be foolhardy in going forward when our circumstances are fraught, with elevated uncertainty and insecurity. But neither should we be overcome by cowardice or allow a growing agitation and anxiety to deplete our energy or subvert our will. Our situation, whether we consider it in terms of the impact on individuals, communities, or the nation as such, seems imperiled by so many factors over which we have so little control. A good many of these factors seem to have their epicenter in Washington D.C. where we find ensconced a demagogue who has demonstrated himself to be an ignorant narcissist, immoral egoist, inveterate liar, and malicious bully who has neither the requisite qualifications nor the competence to lead us anywhere but over the proverb…

The Hazard of Incivility

Drivers and cyclists in Colorado Springs need to take a time out and do some deep breathing. Apparently, restriping two-lane streets to demarcate dedicated bike lanes and reduce the number of motor vehicle lanes to one—a phenomenon known as road dieting—has become a focal point for an impassioned civic divide. After losing a legal challenge, opponents of road dieting are left with writing acerbic letters to the editor at The Gazette. In turn, these evoke letters from proponents of biking and multimodal transportation. This corpus of letters goes back to December of 2016 and shows no sign of letting up, especially as restriping of major four-lane streets continues unabated. These missives in print—and the voluminous comments in response that can only be made and viewed in the online version of the paper—suggest that what might have been a reasoned yet spirited discussion regarding planning options for transportation has degenerated into fiery and fierce diatribes. This is but the locali…

Is It Right to Believe?

It seems to me that many people don’t know what to believe anymore, at least that’s what they tell me. I’ve also met some recently who think they believe, but don’t know why; that’s apparent from their clichéd responses to my query about the basis of their belief. These two groups concern me, but not nearly as much as those who have simply decided not to believe anymore at all. I’m not talking here about religious beliefs (though what I’ve said clearly applies to many). Rather, I’m talking about beliefs regarding our everyday world in general, but especially about beliefs regarding political discourse, issues, persons, and events. Too many people have become cynical and disillusioned, weary with fatigue and suspicious of politicians and what they say about themselves and their opponents. For others, their belief system is impenetrable and more than adequate in dismissing contrary opinion and disparaging those who hold different views. The clash that occurs when advocates of incompatible…