Desmond Tutu’s dream is founded in the image of the reign of God, the full dignity of all humanity, and an insistence that all God’s children are made to dwell together in peace, with justice. He has nation and of the world, and to make their methods seem absurd or ridiculous. Tutu has an impish and ingenious sense of humor, and he’s used it to puncture both arrogant self-importance and the insanity of injustice—yet he treats every single human being with profound respect.
Leaders demonstrate a specific set of character gifts, most of which can be cultivated by exercise—or spiritual discipline-—and formation in a particular way of encountering the world. The teaching task of Christians is part of building leaders who can dream big dreams and approach them with consistency, who have deep courage, abundant creativity, and a sense of connectedness, which often shows itself as compassion. Learning to do new and challenging things—whether mathematics, mountaineering, or deciphering Hebrew verbs—are all ways of honing these gifts. Forming new believers and nurturing new leaders requires some basic principles.
Consistency. In nurturing faith in new and growing Christian leaders, it’s most helpful to keep the main thing the main thing, and encourage all to pursue their dreams with faithfulness and integrity. When an immediate challenge requires a shift in the proximate goal, the overarching vision remains in the mind of a good leader. A worthy goal is not approached by unworthy means, lest it defeat the purpose of the journey, The use of torture or assassination in the expectation that it will end an ongoing conflict is a fitting and timely example. Nor is the goal of a vibrant economy and healthy populace served by gutting services to the most vulnerable populations in a society— something with which many nations are wrestling.
Courage. The courage needed for leadership grows out of the paradoxical awareness of one’s own vulnerability. There can be no courage without objective danger—nor is there any courage in foolhardiness. The most effective leadership does not emerge until one has a sense of how that danger is shared by others. The energy for of danger only produces greater hazards. There are some rock walls where the only way out is up,- retreat is not an option. Global climate change is an excellent example, for denial won’t solve the problem—- the only way through is engagement and changing the way we live on this earth and use its resources. We haven’t yet found adequate leadership to make significant change. Entrenched interest groups are still blowing smoke, trying to mask the real dangers of a failure to act. Those who insist that there is no danger are demonstrably failing to act in their own best interest, relying on their perception of what are at best very short-term rewards, We hope and pray that emerging leaders will find creative ways to expose the smoke for the vanity it is, and effect some transformation.
Creativity. Creative methods, like Tutu’s humour, are both a vision of the Divine at work in ongoing newness, and a way to keep us all appropriately humble. I heard him once challenge a group of students to think about their hungry neighbours by saying, “When Jesus said feed the hungry, he didn’t mean stand around and wait for pizzas to fall from heaven!” He names the obvious in unexpected images and invites all present into the desperate reality.
Our task is to form leders who build community through consensus and collaboration, calling on the gifts of each part of the community to serve the big dream. The dream and vision require a sense of compassion for those who will find any change difficult— but not an empty sympathy that leaves people exactly where they are.